Uruguay on a mission to beef up ties with KL

KUALA LUMPUR: Distance makes the heart grow fonder, they say, and Uruguayan President Dr Tabare Vazquez is here to make just that point. 

The President is on a key mission to spur closer cooperation between Montevideo and Kuala Lumpur, and pave the way for greater economic ties. 

Royal welcome:Tuanku Mizanleading the way forVazquez after theofficial welcomingceremony atParliament Squarein Kuala Lumpuryesterday.Following behindare Uruguay's FirstLady MariaAuxiliadoraDelgado, TuankuNur Zahirah andAbdullah.— Reuters

The last time a Uruguayan head of state visited Malaysia was over a decade ago in 1996, and Vazquez, who took office in 2005, has come with top-notch corporate and business leaders and four Cabinet Ministers to “narrow the gap” between Montevideo and Kuala Lumpur. 

The President, who was accorded an official welcome at Parliament Square yesterday by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah, held talks with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Putrajaya on Thursday. 

He will address a business luncheon today to highlight Uruguay’s emerging business potential. 

Uruguay had downgraded its embassy here in 2002 due to a crippling economic crisis and only restored its mission in December 2005. 

“It was a difficult decision to make (downgrade the embassy). We realise how important Malaysia is as an economic partner and President Vazquez’s visit is to emphasise this,” Uruguayan Ambassador to Malaysia Pablo Sader said in an interview. 

The tiny South American nation of 3.5 million people is among the top beef producers of the world, exporting about 500,000 tonnes of the meat a year. 

Malaysia is among the largest buyers of Uruguayan beef, with about 6,000 tonnes sold here annually. 

The president’s visit follows a successful Malaysian trade mission to Uruguay in August. 

“About 80 business meetings were held with Uruguayan companies. As a result, several projects are in the pipeline,” added Sader. 

Sader said Uruguay was also a noted software producer, adding that Vazquez would visit Cyberjaya to be briefed on Malaysia’s requirements in the field. 

He said shipping was another area of cooperation, with a pact being signed between the Klang Port Authority and its counterpart in Montevideo. 

“We would like to see more direct shipment between our countries to facilitate greater trade,” he added.