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TITLE: URUGUAY ECONOMIC POLICY AND TRADE PRACTICES
DATE: FEBRUARY 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Key Economic Indicators
(Millions of Uruguayan pesos unless otherwise noted)
1991 1992 1993 1/
Real GDP (1983 prices) 2/ 217.4 233.5 238.2
Real GDP growth (pct.) 2.9 7.4 2.0
GDP (at current prices) 2/ 19,793.0 34,523.2 54,229.0
Agriculture 2.003.3 3.637.4 5,600.0
Energy and water 432.3 785.2 1,100.0
Manufacturing 4,918.7 7,493.7 10,500.0
Construction 770.1 1,570.1 2,700.0
Rents 2,480.1 4,910.3 6,800.0
Financial Services 2,191.4 3,583.3 5,000.0
Other Services 5,842.0 10.472.4 16,800.0
Government, Health and
Education 2,004.0 3,379.3 5,300.0
Net Exports of Goods
and Services 597.0 71.5 - 400.0
Real Per Capita GDP
(1983 prices) 69.8 74.6 75.6
Labor Force (000's) 1,369 1,382 1,395
Unemployment Rate (percent) 8.5 9.0 8.8
Money and Prices
(annual percent growth unless noted)
Money Supply (M2) 86.8 54.5 26.0
Base Interest Rate 3/ 73.6 50.1 44.5
Personal Saving Rate 3/ 30.0 24.5 23.9
Consumer Price Index 81.4 58.4 50.0
Wholesale Inflation 68.6 46.9 27.0
Exchange Rate (New Peso/$) 56.1 39.9 26.8
(Inter-bank Selling Rate)
Balance of Payments and Trade
(million U.S. dollars)
Total Exports (FOB) 4/ 1,604.7 1,702.5 1,600.0
Exports to U.S. 162.8 177.8 180.0
Total Imports (CIF) 4/ 1,636.4 2,045.1 2,000.0
Imports from U.S. 196.7 218.7 230.0
Aid from U.S. 10.9 1.2 1.2
Aid from Other Countries N/A N/A N/A
External Public Debt 4,141.0 4,136.0 4,200.0
Debt Service Payments (paid) 813.0 620.0 630.0
Gold and FOREX Reserves (net) 826.5 946.8 1,100.0
Trade Balance 4/ -31.8 -342.6 -400.0
Balance with U.S. -33.9 -40.9 -50.0
1/ 1993 Figures are all estimates based on available monthly
data in October 1993.
2/ GDP at producer prices.
3/ Figures are actual, average annual interest rates, not
changes in them.
4/ Merchandise trade.
1. General Policy Framework
Uruguay has a small, relatively open economy. The
historical basis of the economy has been agriculture,
particularly livestock production. Agriculture remains
important both directly (wool and rice) and indirectly for
inputs for other sectors (textiles, leather and meat).
Industry is now the largest sector and has diversified somewhat
beyond agro-industry into chemicals and consumer goods for
local consumption. Services have assumed greater importance
recently, particularly tourism and financial services, the
latter of which benefit from Uruguay's open financial system.
The government has been relatively successful in reducing
its fiscal deficit from 6.1 percent of GDP in 1989 to 0.9
percent in 1992. Principal sources of the deficit are losses
by the Central Bank on non-performing loans purchased from
private banks, foreign debt payments and transfers to the
social security system. Inflation peaked at 129 percent in
1990, and is expected to fall to 50 percent in 1993.
Seeking to reverse a long-term economic deterioration and
to prepare itself for the formation of the Southern Common
Market (MERCOSUR) comprising Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and
Paraguay, the government is attempting to implement a program
of economic reform. Major elements of the government program
are privatization of state enterprises, financial sector reform
and reform of the costly social security system. The progress
of reform, however, has been slow.
Uruguay is the beneficiary of large inflows of capital,
principally from neighboring Brazil and Argentina. The
government has been able to finance a substantial portion of
its deficit through the issuance of dollar-denominated treasury
bills. The Central Bank of Uruguay uses the adjustment of
reserve requirements as the main tool to control the money
supply. However, the lack of instruments to neutralize capital
inflows makes control of the money supply difficult.
A stand-by and loan agreement in the amount of $72 million
was approved by the International Monetary Fund in July 1992
covering the twelve month period ending March 31 1993. The
Government of Uruguay is now negotiating an enhanced
surveillance agreement with the IMF for the 1994 yearly program.
2. Exchange Rate Policy
The Uruguayan Government allows the peso to float freely
against the dollar within a declining 7 percent band. The band
currently declines by 2 percent per month. In 1993, the
Central Bank regularly bought dollars to keep the peso value
from rising above the band. In 1993 devaluation has lagged
about 21 percentage points behind inflation, hurting Uruguayan
exports but improving prospects for U.S. exports.
Uruguay has no foreign exchange controls. The peso is
freely convertible into dollars for any transaction and much of
the economy is dollarized.
3. Structural Policies
Price controls are limited to a small set of products and
services for public consumption, such as bread, milk, passenger
transportation, utilities and fuels. The Government relies
heavily on consumption taxes (value-added and excise) and taxes
on foreign trade (export taxes and tariffs) for its general
revenues. A substantial social security tax, sometimes equal
to 50 percent of the base wage rate, is assessed on workers and
employers. The top tariff rate was lowered from 24 percent to
20 percent in January 1 1993. This has a positive effect on
U.S. exports. Tariffs for products from Mercosur countries
will reach zero on January 1, 1995. There are no plans for
further reductions of tariffs on products from third countries
at this time.
4. Debt Management Policies
Uruguay is a heavily-indebted middle-income country. As of
March 1993, its total external debt was $7.5 billion, almost
$400 million over the amount in March 1992. Of this amount,
$4.1 billion was public sector debt and $3.4 billion
represented debts of the private sector. The public sector
external debt included $1.4 billion of dollar-denominated
Uruguayan Government bills and bonds, $288 million of foreign
currency deposits of nonresidents, $1.4 billion of long term
loans of the non-financial public sector and $111 million of
suppliers credits. The balance, amounting to $362 million,
represents liabilities, reserves and other credits of the
Government of Uruguay financial sector. International reserves
of the banking system amounted to $2.4 billion.
The $3.4 billion of the private sector foreign debt were
primarily made up of $2.1 billion of foreign currency deposits
by nonresidents and $331 million of supplier credits. The
balance amounting to $1.0 billion represented liability
reserves of the private banks. International reserves of the
private sector banks amounted to $3.0 billion resulting in a
net private sector foreign debt of $364 million.
The debt service in 1992 was $747 million, equivalent to
29.1 percent of combined merchandise and service exports (or
6.5 percent of GDP).
5. Significant Barriers to U.S. Exports
Certain imports require special licenses or customs
documents. Among these are drugs, certain medical equipment
and chemicals, firearms, radioactive materials, fertilizers,
vegetable materials, frozen embryos, livestock, bull semen,
anabolics, sugar, seeds, hormones, meat and vehicles. To
protect Uruguay's important livestock industry, imports of bull
semen and embryos also face certain numerical limitations and
must comply with animal health requirements, a process which
can take years. Bureaucratic delays also add to the cost of
imports, although importers report that a "debureaucratization"
commission has improved matters.
Few significant restrictions exist in services. U.S. banks
continue to be very active in off-shore banking. There are no
significant restrictions on professional services such as law,
medicine or accounting. Similarly, travel and ticketing
services are unrestricted. A new civil aviation agreement has
provided equal treatment for foreign carriers. A law allowing
foreign companies to offer insurance coverage in Uruguay was
passed in October, 1993, and will be implemented within 12
There have been significant limitations on foreign equity
participation in certain sectors of the economy. Investment in
areas regarded as strategic require government authorization.
These include electricity, hydrocarbons, banking and finance,
railroads, strategic minerals, telecommunications, and the
press. Uruguay has long owned and operated state monopolies in
petroleum, rail freight, telephone service, and port
administration. A state enterprise reform law passed in
September 1991 permits partial privatization of certain
state-owned enterprises and allows others to grant concessions
to or enter service contracts with private businesses.
However, key provisions of this law were defeated in a popular
referendum on December 13, 1992, which principally halted the
partial privatization of the telecommunications company.
Passage of port reform legislation in April 1992 allowed for
privatization of various port services.
Government procurement practices are well-defined,
transparent and closely followed. Tenders are generally open
to all bidders, foreign or domestic. A government decree,
however, establishes that in conditions of equal quality or
adequacy to the function, domestic products will have
preference over foreign ones. Among foreign bidders,
preference will be given to those who offer to purchase
Uruguayan products. The government favors local bidders even
if their price is up to ten percent higher. Uruguay is not a
signatory to the GATT Government Procurement Code.
Following a recent reduction in the top rate, Uruguay's
tariff structure now varies between 0 and 20 percent. The only
exemptions to tariff regulations, in the context of
anti-dumping legislation, are reference prices and minimum
export prices, fixed in relation to international levels and in
line with commitments assumed under GATT. These are applied to
neutralize unfair trade practices which threaten to damage
national production activity or delay the development of such
activities and are primarily directed at Argentina and Brazil.
6. Export Subsidies Policies
The Government has provided a nine percent subsidy to wool
fabric and apparel using funds from a tax on greasy and washed
wool exports. This subsidy will be totally eliminated by July
1, 1994. Uruguay is a signatory of the GATT subsidies code.
7. Protection of U.S. Intellectual Property
The Government of Uruguay recognizes intellectual property
rights in a number of areas, and there is no discrimination
against foreign companies seeking to register intellectual
property rights. Uruguay has generally sufficient laws to
protect most intellectual property rights except with regard to
new technology and pharmaceuticals. However, enforcement of
these laws is weak in certain areas such as software, due in
part to the fact that little of the domestic industry relies on
intellectual property protection. Uruguay has been generally
supportive of efforts to strengthen the rules governing
intellectual property protection in international fora such as
the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the
Uruguay Round of GATT.
The Government does not discriminate between foreign and
domestic patent holders. Owners and assignees of foreign
patents may obtain confirmation of patents in Uruguay, provided
application is made within three years of registration in
country of origin. Confirmed patents are protected for ten
years, less the period of protection already enjoyed in the
country of origin. Compulsory licensing is not practiced.
Medicines and chemical products are not patentable, although
production processes for such products are patentable.
Although no figures are available, the lack of patent
protection for pharmaceuticals has had a marked effect on U.S.
trade and investment in the sector.
Foreign trademarks may be registered in Uruguay and receive
the same protection as domestic trademarks. Protection is
afforded for ten years initially, renewable indefinitely.
Uruguay affords copyright protection to, inter alia, books,
records, videos, and software. Despite the legal protection,
enforcement of copyright protection for software is still weak
and pirating of software is substantial. Software suppliers
have estimated that losses due to pirating could amount to $10
million. There is also considerable pirating of videotapes and
cassettes. The International Intellectual Property Rights
Alliance estimates trade losses from copyright piracy of motion
pictures, sound recordings and musical compositions, and books
at $9.9 million. A new copyright law is under consideration.
8. Worker Rights
a. Right of Association
The Constitution guarantees the right of workers to
organize freely and encourages the formation of unions. Labor
unions are independent of government or political party control.
b. Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Under a policy instituted in March 1992, collective
bargaining takes place on a plant-wide or sector-wide basis,
with or without government mediation, as the parties wish.
c. Prohibition of Forced or compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law and in
practice and there is no evidence of its existence.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Children as young as 12 may be employed if they have a work
permit. Children under the age of 18 may not perform
dangerous, fatiguing, or night work, apart from domestic
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is a legislated minimum wage. The standard work week
is 48 hours for six days, with overtime compensation for work
in excess of 48 hours. Workers are protected by health and
safety standards, which appear to be adhered to in practice.
f. Rights in Sectors with U.S. Investment
Workers in sectors in which there is U.S. investment are
provided the same protection as other workers. In many cases,
the wages and working conditions for those in U.S.-affiliated
industries appear to be better than average.
Extent of U.S. Investment in Selected Industries
U.S. Direct Investment Position Abroad
on an Historical Cost Basis - 1992
(millions of U.S. dollars)
Total Manufacturing D
Food & Kindred Products 59
Chemicals and Allied Products -1
Metals, Primary & Fabricated 3
Machinery, except Electrical 0
Electric & Electronic Equipment 0
Transportation Equipment 0
Other Manufacturing D
Wholesale Trade 79
Finance and Insurance D
Other Industries 0
TOTAL ALL INDUSTRIES 259
(D)-Suppressed to avoid disclosing data of individual companies
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic
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