China, Uruguay sign MOU to expand air transport, customs setup

During China’s second “Belt and Road” International Cooperation Summit last week, China and Uruguay signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) establishing an air transport and customs agreement between the two countries. The new agreement not only supports China’s ongoing westward aviation network expansion, but also increases business opportunities for air cargo stakeholders of both countries. 

Under the agreement, the National Customs Directorate of Uruguay and the General Administration of Customs of China will work closely to establish programs to verify documents more efficiently. Additionally, both countries will cooperate on activities related to cargo inspection and exchange of customs information. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and the National Civil Aviation and Infrastructure Bureau of Uruguay will also cooperate to establish air routes between the countries, although no new routes have been scheduled between the nations thus far. 

With this new agreement, Uruguay said that it is the first American country to sign a customs agreement with China, and that it welcomes the opportunity to function as a “gateway to the South Atlantic” for its trading partner.  

While this development clearly continues China’s Belt and Road expansion efforts in the realms of aviation and cargo, the agreement also demonstrates a continuation of Uruguay’s own efforts to develop its international cargo business and increase its export footprint in the Chinese market. 

Uruguay was the first country in the Mercosur area – also comprised of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay – to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative, whereupon the countries agreed to allow the operation of up to 14 weekly flight frequencies and fifth freedom air rights between their nations. Although there are not yet any direct flights connecting Uruguay from its capitol airport in Montevideo (MVD) – which hosts combination carriers such as Avianca, Air France-KLM, Copa Airlines, Iberia, LATAM Airlines and Lufthansa – to any Chinese airports, China has since become Uruguay’s largest partner for exports.  

Uruguay sent a delegation to represent the country at Beijing’s 2019 Expo, which opened this week, to promote Uruguay as a leader in the production of reliable food, technology and renewable energy. During this exposition, Uruguay said it intends to further position itself as an emerging hub for business. 

MVD also recently established a pharma corridor with Brussels Airport (BRU), while Philadelphia-based logistics company BDP International opened a new office at the airport last year.