Free trade zones play an important role in attracting investment, generating skilled employment and diversifying the country's exports. This report focuses on the importance of free trade zones in Uruguay's exports of goods. These areas are used as logistics centers, acting as intermediate destinations for grain and certain pharmaceutical exports. They also function as industrial processing locations, as in the case of cellulose and beverage concentrate production.
In the context of the global health crisis caused by the spread of the coronavirus, Uruguayan exports of goods fell in 2020. Exports of goods considering free trade zones stood at US$ 8,024 million, a 13% drop as compared to 2019. However, a strong recovery of export sales is observed so far in 2021. These stood at US$ 4,981 in the first half of the year, growing 36% as compared to the same period of 2020, a figure that also implies an increase of 12% compared to the same period of 2019 (pre-pandemic year). Thus, exports with free trade zones are expected to grow around 30% this year.
Exports from Uruguay's free zones totaled US$ 2,228 million in 2020, representing 28% of total exports of goods. This means a 21% drop as compared to 2019. In the first half of 2021 sales from free zones abroad also showed a rebound and grew 21% in the year-on-year comparison, standing at US$ 1,328 million. The main products exported from free trade zones are grains (mainly soybeans), cellulose, pharmaceuticals and beverage concentrates.