Uruguay: Free Trade Zones In Uruguay – What Are They Good For? - Part II - Case Studies

Last Updated: 21 August 2017
Article by Mark Teuten


In our previous article we set out the basic framework under which Free Trade Zones (FTZs) work and their main advantages and some (smaller) disadvantages.

For this article we thought it would be useful to provide some further practical information about use of FTZs and also some specific examples of companies operating out of FTZs.

Overall Importance of FTZs:

FTZ's are used for a broad range of business activities. The largest manufacturing industries in our country are installed in publically owned FTZ's, specifically created for them by the Uruguayan government.


The latest published statistics on FTZs is from 2015. During that year FTZs attracted 720 million US dollars of investment capital. Investment in FTZs has continued to rise even whilst investment in the rest of the Uruguayan economy has stagnated (although the economy has never been in a recession even in 2008/9).

The 2015 investment figure represented 5.86% of the total annual investment (national and foreign) in the Uruguayan economy.

The largest investment was the Montes del Plata cellulose plant near Colonia in the Punta Pereira FTZ.  To put the importance of this plant in perspective, it now contributes more than 2% to Uruguay's annual GDP.

Photo: Montes del Plata plant from the air

A new, additional, cellulose plant is now being negotiated between the owners of the Montes del Plata and the government. A fundamental requirement of the owners is that the government create a new FTZ for the plant's location in Uruguay's Rio Negro region.


In 2014, exports from Uruguay's FTZs represented 24% of all Uruguayan exports. Sixty percent of this total is made up of exported services, which in turn represent approximately 70% of all Uruguayan service exports.

So, the lesson is, if you are a Uruguayan company which exports services, you need to be located in a FTZ.


The 2015 information shows that in that year the total number of employees working in FTZs was 13,420 of whom 8.75% are non-Uruguayan nationals. Thus the 25% maximum limit set by the law for foreign nationals does not appear to be an issue in practice.

Average salaries for workers in FTZs are equal to 2,900 US dollars per month, which is well above the national average.

By far, the FTZ providing the greatest number of jobs is Zonamerica located on the outskirts of Montevideo, with its hundreds of tenant companies employing 6,900.

Photo: The main administrative building at Zonamerica

Case studies in different sectors:

  1. Manufacturing: Mega Pharma

Photo: The entrance to the new Mega Pharma plant

The latest FTZ is called the Science Park ("Parque de las Ciencias") located near the Montevideo airport. It is aimed particularly at the biotech and pharmaceutical industry.

The Mega Pharma plant (part of the Roemmers group from Argentina) opened in March 2016 with an investment of 110 million US dollars. It is said to be the most modern plant in the whole of South America. It has 350 employees.

Although most of the plant is dedicated to the manufacture of medicines to be exported in the local region there is also a research and development facility.

Traditionally Roemmers has been a generic manufacturer, but it is to be hoped with this new plant they will be creating their own products. In 2017, it is estimated that production from the plant will exceed 250 million US dollars, with sales throughout Latin America.

  1. Commerce: Costa Oriental

Photos: The outside and inside of Costa Oriental's warehouse

Costa Oriental is the largest Uruguayan logistics company, which has now established itself in the Zonamerica FTZ to act as a regional hub for the distribution of goods for a variety of multinational companies.

Products brought into the FTZ do not pay any import duty and can be kept there for as long as is necessary.

Import duties are only paid when the goods are exported, at the rates applicable in the country to which the goods are sent. In the case of exports going on to another Mercosur country this means payment of the Common Eternal Tariff (A.E.C.) on entry.

Costa Oriental recently signed a distribution agreement with L'Oreal. In order to obtain this contract, Costa had to invest in special warehousing for pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, which conform to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) norms.

Costa has also been certified by the Uruguayan Customs Authority as a qualified operator, which means that its internal control systems have been fully checked and provides advantages for the company in its customs transactions.

  1. Services:  Trafigura

Photo: The front of Trafigura's Montevideo office

Trafigura describes itself as "one of the world's leading independent commodity trading and logistics houses". It is a multinational company with offices in 36 different countries. In 2013 it opened a regional hub in Zonamerica.

This new Uruguay office carries out all group activities, but with a focus on North and South America. So it has a commodity trading section and logistics activities, backed up with all the necessary back office staff.

The office has been so successful that additional teams are being moved to Uruguay. Likewise the company represents a very attractive opportunity to many young Uruguayan graduates. At the time of writing it employs over 400 people, having started with only 70 in 2013.


These examples are intended to give an idea of how some companies have successfully set up operations in Uruguay, with regional or even worldwide activities.

As mentioned in our previous article there are many other companies operating in the software, telecommunications (particularly call centres) and financial sectors.

If the Mercosur (a regional trade bloc of which Uruguay is a member) could actually get its act together and start really operating as at least a proper customs union, then these FTZs could increase in size substantially.

As many readers will be aware, over the last 10 years the Argentine economy has been virtually closed to imports and the Brazilian government has always been very protective of its own industries. Argentina seems to be on a gradual path towards opening its economy, which will lead to significant opportunities in Uruguay and the FTZs in particular – hopefully!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions