Building on the success of the I European Investment Forum in Uruguay of 2017, the EU Delegation organised a second edition in Montevideo on 19 October, jointly with the Uruguay XXI investment promotion agency. Field visits to companies active in cellulose production and wood processing in the departments of Colonia and Tacuarembó were set up for 11 October 2019.
The Forum brought together over 150 participants including Ministers, diplomats, academia and Uruguayan civil society, as well as EU and Uruguayan companies from the forestry, timber and bio-economy sector.
The event showcased the EU investments in the sector in Uruguay, including the new 3 billion dollars investment by the Finnish firm UPM in a second pulp mill. Experts focused on best practices and innovative solutions in the sector in the EU and beyond. The sector has been selected as one of six strategic areas for development in the recent Uruguay's 2050 strategy. Uruguay enjoys advantageous climatic conditions and trees grow six times faster than in Europe. The forest coverage significantly expanded in the recent years. Eucalyptus production is mainly intended to pulp mills. Cellulose is country's first export product. The offer of pine wood exceeds 3 million cubic meters per year and is at present mostly exported as timber. Almost all the Uruguayan wood production is certified by FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification).
The Forum also shed light on the opportunities arising from EU-Mercosur Association Agreement and contributed to establishing new business links. EU is #1 investor in Uruguay and in 2018 accounted for 35% of the total FDI. Uruguay received two European mega-investments in the last decade, notably by the Finnish company UPM and the Swedish-Finnish company Montes del Plata, both in pulp mills, as well as additional investment linked to these two. Another European mega investment in the pulp sector by UPM worth USD 3 billion was announced earlier this year. It will be accompanied by an important railway project (government investment implemented by a Spanish-French-Uruguayan joint venture).
The Forum included quality discussions with over 30 speakers over six sessions. The discussions focused around: (i) the EU investments in Uruguay, also in the context of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement, (ii) investment opportunities in the sector in Uruguay as well as (iii) innovation and trends in wooden construction, bio-forestation and bio-energy in the EU and beyond. Presence of EU expert professor Hubert Röder from Germany was very much appreciated. Participants agreed that investment opportunities exist in Uruguay in wood processing, value addition and wooden construction. New EU investments are expected in view of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement. European expertise, technological know-how and innovative initiatives are very attractive for Uruguay in view of its strong interest in expanding the sector's value chain, which so far has been dominated by the production of cellulose and export of raw timber.
The event was very positive in terms of EU visibility and networking with trade stakeholders. Journalists from television channels, radio stations and the printed press covered the event. The Forum also had a significant impact on social media (mainly Twitter, Facebook and Instagram).