On August 25, Uruguay celebrated the 195th anniversary of the independence of the Republic. For more than a century and a half, Russia and Uruguay have been linked by relations of friendship, mutual understanding and respect, which is the basis for strengthening cooperation between the two countries in various fields. For this date, it is worth turning to the history of Russian-Uruguayan relations. What unites Russia and Uruguay today?
The establishment of diplomatic relations between the Eastern Republic of Uruguay and the Russian Empire took place through the exchange of letters of notice and response between the President of Uruguay Gabriel Pereira (Gabriel Antonio Pereira) and the Emperor Alexander II in 1857. Until that moment, Russia in the south of the New World had relations only with the Brazilian Empire. Thanks to the initiative of the Uruguayan side, the establishment of relations between the Russian crown and the republics of Latin America began.
After the October Revolution of 1917, diplomatic relations were suspended, and in 1926 they were restored with the USSR. After that, in 1935, they were again interrupted by the Uruguayan side, and then renovated in 1943. However, the intensive dynamics of bilateral contacts in various fields of activity manifested itself only in the 90s of the twentieth century. The basis of Russian-Uruguayan interaction is the “Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Eastern Republic of Uruguay” signed in 1997.
Since the beginning of the 2000s the emerging architecture of a multipolar world opens up new opportunities for Latin America, which is changing its position both in the economic plane and in the political projection. Uruguay stands out in the region for the egalitarian nature of society (overall indicator of high per capita income, low levels of social inequality and poverty, almost complete absence of extreme poverty). According to statistics, the Uruguayan middle class is the largest in America, accounting for approximately 60% of the total population. According to the World Bank indicators, the Eastern Republic of Uruguay ranks first among Latin American countries in terms of various measures of well-being, such as the Human Development Index, the Human Opportunity Index and the Economic Freedom Index.
The statistics published at the end of the first half of 2019 indicate that after a period of 16 years of continuous growth, stagnation in the Uruguayan economy, which may further develop into a recession: since the beginning of the second quarter of 2018, the dynamics of the country’s economic development has been showing almost zero indicators. Due to the decline in activity in the sectors of agriculture and forestry, livestock, construction, trade, as well as in the field of hotel and restaurant services, one can observe a decrease in consumer demand, investment and export. A number of economic analysts note that these and other negative processes in the Uruguayan economy are significantly influenced by both the unfavourable financial and economic situation in the main regional trading partners: Brazil and Argentina, and the problems associated with the global slowdown in economic growth.
In 2019, there was a “very modest” economic growth in Uruguay at the level of 0.6-0.8%. For 2020, these forecasts look slightly worse due to the pandemic, caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus, which has affected all areas of life. In 2021, subject to an improvement in the external economic situation and an inflow of investments into the country, Uruguay will probably be able to reach the indicators of 2019.
The Eastern Republic of Uruguay, being a small country with a population of less than 4 million people, today takes the place of one of the most important and reliable Russian partners in the region. In recent years, a constant political dialogue has been maintained between the countries, ties in the fields of trade, agriculture, education and culture have been building up. According to the official statistics of the Russian Export Center, Uruguay is ranked 101st in trade, 132nd in exports, and 78th in imports of Russia. According to the National Customs Administration, the volume of Russian-Uruguayan trade in 2019 decreased by 12.3% and amounted to $202.2 million. Russian imports of Uruguayan products reached $155.3 million (-10.5%), and exports – $46.9 million (-17.8%). The Russian share in the Uruguayan trade remains at the level of 1%.
Russia has been an important trading partner of Uruguay for ten years now and is one of the top ten export destinations for the Latin American country. The Russian Federation now ranks seventh on this list. The Eastern Republic of Uruguay is the second largest supplier of meat and dairy products to Russia after Belarus. In the structure of Russian exports to Uruguay in the period from 2018 to 2020, the main share of supplies falls on the products of the chemical industry (about 80-82% of the total volume of Russian exports to Uruguay); mineral products (about 12-13%); machinery, equipment and vehicles (2-3%); textiles and footwear (0.05-1.5%); wood, pulp and paper products (0.5-1%). In the structure of Russian imports from Uruguay in the above-mentioned period, the main share of supplies is made up of food products and agricultural raw materials (about 96-97% of the total volume of Russian imports from Uruguay); chemical industry products (1.85-2%); textiles and footwear (0.4-1.2%).
Summing up, it is worth noting that the relations of friendship and mutual trust that have linked for more than a century and a half today create a solid foundation for the development of Russian-Uruguayan interaction. In recent years, bilateral relations have been developing along an ascending line: the intensity of delegation exchange has increased, meetings have taken place at the level of heads of various departments and ministries. Since 2014, the Russian-Uruguayan Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation has resumed its work. In a multipolar world, Uruguay is a very promising partner of Russia in the Latin America region, relations with which are built on the proximity of the positions of the two countries on key issues of the modern agenda based on the primacy of international law, the central place of the UN in the system of political and social development.