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June 26, 2023

GAI Hosts Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay Nicolás Albertoni

On June 27, the Georgetown Americas Institute (GAI) hosted Uruguay’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nicolás Albertoni (G’16) for a conversation on the role of Latin America in the new global economy and prospects for the economic integration of Uruguay and the region as a whole. This event was moderated by Antoni Estevadeordal, a GAI resident fellow.

Nicolas Albertoni
Nicolas Albertoni

An Uncertain, Interdependent, and Complex World

Albertoni offered three key concepts to understand the current global economic landscape. The first is uncertainty as unexpected events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine War create an unpredictable economic environment, reflected in outcomes like fluctuating oil prices.

The second concept was the interdependence of today’s trading world exemplified by the hundreds of trade agreements worldwide and interconnected global supply chains. Latin America has over 20 integration projects despite being one of the regions with the least internal trade. Albertoni advised against the creation of new integration mechanisms and encouraged governments to revisit and strengthen existing ones instead.

The last concept is complexity. Several challenges lie ahead for Latin America and the world, such as the Venezuelan migration crisis, environmental sustainability, and challenges to democracy driven by populism.

Prospects for Regional Integration

Albertoni stressed that when regional leaders and policymakers come together to negotiate a trade agreement, their discussions now expand beyond tariffs to include other relevant economic factors like e-commerce, the environment, and public construction projects.

 “When a country in Latin America misses out on these debates, it is not just about trade, but it misses out on the latest talks about development.” - Nicolás Albertoni

Albertoni examined Uruguay’s relationship with the United States, positing that the two countries’ amicable relationship was almost an Uruguayan permanent state policy, regardless of the government in power or their ideologies. Today, the United States remains a key partner for Uruguayan trade; however, Albertoni expressed that it is difficult to expand commercial partnerships if the other party is not as proactive about it.

Albertoni also voiced his thoughts on the European Union’s trade agreement with Mercosur, one that has been in the works for many years. He recalled that the EU had concerns about the sustainable development chapters of the agreement being too limited. He added that he believes Mercosur countries will need more time to improve their commitments to sustainable development.

Nevertheless, he believes that it will be important to make as much progress as possible with Spain holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union from July through December 2023. Concurrently, Uruguay is eager to pursue a trade agreement to boost commercial ties between China and Uruguay. However, China appears to be evaluating the possibility of a regional agreement with Mercosur instead of multiple bilateral ones. Albertoni also stressed the importance of vertical development and warned against protectionist policies common in Latin America.

“Our protectionist vision has consequences like hyperinflation.” - Nicolás Albertoni

He closed by highlighting the need to be proactive in the academic and policymaking worlds to help countries navigate through today’s uncertain, complex, and interdependent world.