LATAM FDI: Welcome to the LATAM FDI podcast. Today we are very fortunate to have a gentleman from Uruguay with us. His name is Juan Carlos Rodriguez, and Juan Carlos is the commercial and marketing director of the Aguada Park Free Zone in Montevideo. Today we will talk about investing in Uruguay and its attraction for foreign capital. How are you doing today, Juan Carlos?
Juan Carlos Rodríguez: Good morning. Very good, fine. Thank you very much for inviting me to talk about my country, what we can do, and the investments made in the last few years.
LATAM FDI: Juan Carlos, could you please tell us first about yourself and the organization that you represent?
Juan Carlos Rodriguez: I represent a services free trade zone in Montevideo. Geographically, it is between two giant countries. Uruguay is a very small country of 3.5 million people between Brazil and Argentina. Since the times that it was a Spanish colony, it has been a country for services. Uruguay gained its independence in the 19th century and is focused mostly on providing global services. We are also a very touristic country. We are one of the most politically stable countries in all of the Americas. We have a great middle class. All our public schools and university are free of cost. Every child at school has a laptop. This was instituted over 15 years ago, and we are working for the world.
We are recognized for three or four main things. We are a logistic hub for the region. So many multinational companies are working from here, as is the case with places like Hong Kong, Hamburg, Miami, and Long Beach. Montevideo Freeport is a very stable place, and we are developing business from here to the rest of the region. The second thing is we are a free trade zone country. We have a very stable country and a 100-year-old legal frame framework that makes investing in Uruguay secure.
Countries that establish themselves in Uruguayan free zones do not have any kind of taxes from the day they initiate their operations until the future. That means they do not have to pay corporate tax and asset taxes. These incentives give multinational companies the impetus to establish themselves in the region and the state. And the third thing that makes investing in Uruguay a great option is our people. That’s real value. Imagine that all our children are learning English from the very first day of primary school. Additionally, we work during the same hours and occupy the same time zones. We are in the middle, between east and western US states, which gives companies investing in Uruguay a great advantage. The location is the fourth point we can discuss, as we are half an hour from Buenos Aires. We are 2 hours from Sao Paulo. We are 2 hours from Asuncion, Paraguay, and Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Additionally, we are 4 hours from Lima, Peru. So, when we are talking about location, location, and location, that is a huge advantage for companies investing in Uruguay that are seeking to do business throughout South America. Finally, technology is important. We are developing a real technological hub for companies that are investing in Uruguay. Many billionaire companies have invested in Uruguay in the last ten years.
That idea gives you an overview of how our country has developed recently.
LATAM FDI: Most people have a tendency to think of manufacturing when they think of free zones. Your free zone is different. Can you tell our audience what the Aguada Park Free Zone is involved in?
Juan Carlos Rodriguez: We can say two or three things when discussing free trade zones. The first thing is yes, manufacturing was a huge investment in free trade zones in the country. But two or three companies have done this. That is all. They have come from Europe, from places like Sweden and Spain. Pepsi has a huge factory in a free trade zone. But real development or the increasing free trade zone activity in Uruguay has occurred for the last 40 years. It started with logistics because the taxes were why they came to distribute goods from Europe, the States, and Asia. They were in a hub and investing in Uruguay in the free trade.
So that has increased real value to our population because there are some careers in the university that began providing professional people directly to businesses for this new job. For example, the German company BASF has 60 locations in different places around the world and decided some years ago to have three locations Kuala Lumpur, Asia, Berlin for Europe, and Montevideo for the Americas. So today, the Uruguayan people are looking for factories and providing services to those in the United States. So, the people of Uruguay have a high level of education. I think that companies investing in Uruguay will find that the country is rich with a good population. For its size of 3.5 million people, Uruguay is tailor-made to provide global services. When we say it, we are a boutique country. We are not a place for car assembly. We are not a huge population consuming million and millions of dollars worth of goods in our supermarkets. Those investing in Uruguay will find that we are global service providers. And in another way, we are a tourism-driven country. We receive more than three or four million visitors per year. This is more than the population of the country. Why? Because we are secure. During the pandemic and over the last four years of the pandemic, the experience of Uruguay can serve as a case study.
Freedom, responsibility. I don’t know if it is exactly in a way, say in English, but what does it mean when the worst part of the pandemic of COVID came? The president said please stay at home, but you will not be obliged; we ask you. We got the first vaccine in Uruguay before Brazil, before Argentina. Our leadership dealt with the people of Pfizer in a really marvelous way. We had almost no death in Uruguay
This made billionaires and the richest businessman in Brazil and Argentina come to stay in Uruguay. So today, it is incredible that we have more than 60,000 families of the richest families in the region with us. This is because they are safe to go bicycling. They are safe at the beach. They can be secure and do not have to have bodyguards. We do not have arms. You can see we are first in all the social variable rankings.
Something that we are proud of is that there is no corruption in our politics, and we do our best. Corrupt individuals go to jail.
Those investing in Uruguay will note that the country has political unity. Perhaps you can see four or five presidents of different parties in the same reception. All join in together. This gives the country a culture of maturity, stability, transparency, and the acceptance of the political ideas of one president by another. Differences do not matter. They must be unified because they must defend the democracy of our country. So, I imagine these different small things are important when you are in the middle of two giant countries like Argentina, which has almost 50 million people, and Brazil, which has more than 200 million people. Well, there’s business. These two large countries have a significant volume of business. Investing in Uruguay is a marvelous platform to develop from here to the South Cone and Latin America in its totality. Perhaps not for a manufacturing factory, but perhaps for shared service centers and corporate headquarters.
LATAM FDI: When I listen to you, I think of companies that have facilities in places far from the United States. They have them in places like the Philippines and India. And other locations that don’t share the same time zones, that share different cultures. When I look at Uruguay, Uruguay is in the same time zone as the United States. It is a place that, in my estimation, companies that do business in these very faraway locations should look at. Companies may be listening to this podcast and have an interest in Uruguay. After hearing your description of the country and investing in Uruguay, what do they have to know about the free zone program in the country? What are some of the incentives that are part of that program?
Juan Carlos Rodriguez: First of all, that’s very easy to work inside free trade zones in Uruguay. Why? Government has a defined program, and under it, companies receive incentives. What are they? You will not have any kind of taxes to pay. Tata from India has almost 2000 people in Latin America, and they do not pay taxes in Uruguay. Free zone status guarantees fiscal benefits for the contract period that has been agreed upon. I can say you that investing in Uruguay is very easy on the one hand. Other points are the good quality of people and location. This is in addition to good infrastructure. It is the same kind and quality of infrastructure you are accustomed to in the States, the same kind of quality.
LATAM FDI: Well, you’ve given us a really good overview of what people can expect to find in Uruguay. When people listen to these conversations, I’m sure further questions come to mind. Would people with further questions on Uruguay be able to contact you and communicate with you to learn more about investing in Uruguay?
Juan Carlos Rodriguez: Sure, I will gladly receive questions. Your listeners can contact me by email or by the Aguada Park website. It’s very easy. It’s in Spanish and in English. I can be contacted directly or through my team. Also, we usually travel to the States and visit companies and places because we have some customers there.
LATAM FDI: Well, what we’ll do to make all this information visible to people is in the section with the podcast transcript. We usually include the contact information of the person that is speaking with us. We’ll put your email address and your website, and if it’s okay with you, maybe a link to your LinkedIn page as well.
Juan Carlos Rodriguez: Perfect. My name is Juan Carlos Rodríguez. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
LATAM FDI: Well, thank you for joining us today. This discussion about investing in Uruguay has been very interesting. It is a country that maybe a lot of people don’t know much about, but hopefully you have fed their curiosity, and they’ll have reason to contact you with more questions.
Juan Carlos Rodriguez: Thank you very much. Steve, you’re always helping to develop Latin American countries. Thank you really very much. And for everyone that comes to Uruguay, you will find a very friendly country. It has very good meat, and marvelous weather where you can pass your time and visit different beautiful places. And thank you very much.
LATAM FDI: Thanks, have a great day.
Juan Carlos Rodríguez: Thank you.