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Uruguay, China to start formal negotiations on free trade agreement

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MEXICO CITY, July 13 (Reuters) - Uruguay and China have decided to enter formal negotiations on a free trade agreement, Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou said on Wednesday during a press conference.

Teams from the two countries will meet in coming days to start talks, Lacalle Pou said from Uruguayan capital Montevideo, adding that the country's aim is to sell and trade goods, raw materials and technology.

Lacalle Pou has long pushed for an agreement with China to boost exports of key products such as beef.

The president said last year that Uruguay would negotiate a trade agreement with China on its own, leading to tension with Mercosur members Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

Mercosur is a South American trade bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to generate business and investment opportunities.

If an agreement is reached with Beijing, Uruguay would join neighbors Chile and Peru in signing bilateral free trade pacts with China.

China is Uruguay's main trading partner, buying a considerable percentage of its exports, including beef, its biggest export product. (Reporting by Carolina Pulice; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Tom Hogue)