Uruguay Reflects Latin American Drift from U.S., Turn to China

By Samantha Pearson

"The U.S. is missing a huge opportunity with Uruguay," said AS/COA's Eric Farnsworth to The Wall Street Journal.

Uruguay is tiny, democratic, relatively affluent and sandwiched between Latin America’s two biggest countries, Brazil and Argentina. It should be a natural ally for the U.S. in Latin America, say former diplomats and foreign-policy experts, given its low levels of corruption, respect for the rule of law and pro-trade policies, making it an island of economic and political stability in a region where populist leaders averse to U.S. policies abound.

But for years, Uruguay has tried and failed to get a free-trade deal with the U.S. The center-right government here in Montevideo is now negotiating one with China, which has stepped up donations to the country’s schools, hospitals and military in recent years. [...]

"The U.S. is missing a huge opportunity with Uruguay," said Eric Farnsworth, head of the Washington office of the Council of the Americas, an organization that promotes free trade, and a former State Department official.

"In the U.S. I don’t think we’ve truly internalized the idea that there is serious and significant competition in the Western Hemisphere…we’ve always been the only game in town," Farnsworth said of Washington’s attitude to South America.

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