Click on each topic for more information



Import regulations and customs duties  - Distribution - Transportation of goods - Standards - Patents and brands

Import regulations and customs duties

Uruguay has a liberal import policy. There is no quota system. License is required for the import of products such as medical equipment, chemicals, cattle, sugar, cereals, meat and flour. All importers should nevertheless be registered with the Central Bank and declare all their imports by filling an import declaration. Recording Certificates are valid for 180 days. A deadline for customs clearance of the goods is fixed.


Customs duties
Uruguay applies the harmonised Customs System. Customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value of the goods. However, Uruguay applies some minimum price for textile and clothing imports. Importers have to pay the difference between the amount of the invoice and the minimum price. The custom duties are payable on that minimal price. Uruguay is not part of the WTO.

Uruguay is a member of the MERCOSUR (Mercado Comun del Sur, gathering Argentina, Brasil, Paraguay and Uruguay), aimed at creating a free trade zone, a common external tariff and a free circulation zone for goods, services, capitals and persons. Customs duties between member countries were theoretically abolished in 1994, with nevertheless a lot of exceptions, according to the "adaptation regime" (Regimen de adecuacion).
The common external tariff (CET) does ot concern all products, currently: only 75% of the tariff lines benefit from a single tariff. The goods still outside the system, for the 4 countries are: equipment goods, IT, telecommunications, cars and sugar sectors.


Import taxes
Harbour taxes are levied by the Ports National Administracion. It is applied in USD per ton. A royalty of Imports control ( TCI) of 1 % of the CIF value is charged by the Central Bank of Uruguay. There is a customs royalty (TSA) of 0.2 % on the CIF value, and a special services royalty in USD according to the value of the goods.
Besides that, Uruguay applies various taxes on sale:
- IMESI (Impuesto Especifico Interno, specific internal tax): applicable to the first sale. According to the nature of the product, it will be calculated either on the actual value of the sale or on the value that has been officially fixed by the State. The latter is set up on a six-month basis and revised every 2 months to take the inflation into account. The basis of calculation involves a discrimination between imported and local products.



The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
The main shopping centre of the country is Montevideo and its suburbs. Some other important commercial zones are: Punta east of Maldonado, Paysandu, Salto and Colonia. The urban population is very different from the rural one because of income disparities. City-dwellers consume like Europeans, while farmers consume traditionally. Tourists are characterised by their luxurious style, while the average consumer is characterised by his conservative character and his resistance to progress. The commercial distribution is handled by small and average shopkeepers with a family background. Big shopping centres have recently come up in Montevideo. At present there are 4 such centres.
The wholesale business is dominated by importers / distributors who supply big retail chains and small retail dealers.
There are 3 big distributors specialised in food, clothing or other average or low range consumer goods: Disco, Tienda Inglesa and Devoto. Finished or semi finished industrial goods distribution is carried out by distributor agents (there are no specialised chains). Franchising has just begun to develop in Uruguay. The most important trade fair is the rural show of the Prado in Montevideo, based on agro-industry and multi-sector business.


Transportation of goods

By road
There are 9,000 km of tarred and relatively well maintained main road network and 33.000 km of secondary roads (being systematically and more and more maintained).
There are two international bridges connected with Argentina, and also 4 roads connected with Brazil. The construction of an 80-km international bridge between Buenos Aires and Colonia is currently in project and is a part of the global project of connection between Buenos Aires - Montevideo - Port Alegre - Sao Paulo - Punta del Este.
Roads are in a good condition and the traffic is not very dense except on the roads leading to Punta's tourist zone. Other projects are in progress such as doubling and converting the Montevideo - Punta del Este axis into a toll trunk highway.

By rail
The rail network is 3,000 km long and mostly used for goods transport. Railways are in a bad state with insufficient and obsolete equipment.
The Railway Administration of the State (Administracion Ferrocariles del Estado) uses only 1,900 km of the network for goods transport. 1,450,000 tons of goods were transported in 1999, which is 15% of the total of goods transported in Uruguay. This is a 65% increase as compared to 1995.
The AFE forecasts an increase of its traffic up to 2,000,000 tons of goods in the next five years, consisting of 420,000 tons of forest products and 100,000 tons of containers.

By sea
The main ports of the country are Montevideo (the most important), Colonia, Nueva Palmira and Fray Bentos.
Several ferry companies operate between Montevideo and Buenos Aires: Buquebus, Ferrylineas, Fast Ferry and Surcruise. (Being Buquebus)
Since 1992, the National Administration of Ports (ANP) has been working on a restructuring and modernisation policy of the national harbour facilities.

By air
The only international airport of the country is Carrasco , a property of the Ministry of Defence. Pluna is the only national airline company operating in the country at the regional level.


The conformity certification bodies are the Uruguayan Institute of Technical Standards (UNITES) and the Technological Laboratory of Uruguay (LATU). The standards ISO is recognised.
Except for food, there are no specific Urugayan standards. When necessary, the country applies the European or North American standards.

Patents and brands

Uruguay signed the Paris Convention for the protection of industrial property along with the agreement establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Patent Law - Period of validity of 15 years -
Trademark Trademarks Law Period of validity of 10 years -
Design Industrial Design Law Period of validity of 5 years Period renewable all 5 years


Last modified in 2006 - ongoing update
Export Entreprises©, All rights reserved