Paraguay President-Elect to Visit Taiwan to Deepen Ties

Paraguay President-Elect to Visit Taiwan to Deepen Ties
Paraguayan presidential candidate Santiago Peña from the ruling Colorado Party speaks at the party headquarters as he and his running mate Pedro Alliana lead Paraguay's presidential race, according to early results, in Asunción, Paraguay, on April 30, 2023. (Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)
Aldgra Fredly

Paraguayan President-elect Santiago Peña said on July 9 that he'll visit Taiwan this week to deepen bilateral relations with the self-ruling island as part of his administration’s “intense international agenda.”

Mr. Peña, who’s set to take office in August following the victory of the ruling Colorado Party in the country’s April elections, will begin his five-day visit to Taiwan on July 11 after a stop to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

He’s expected to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, whom he described as a “great friend,” and several senior Taiwanese diplomats during his visit, according to Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry.

“We are going to develop an intense international agenda in the coming days carrying the message that Paraguay and its people are up for great things,” Mr. Pena wrote on Twitter.

His visit will coincide with the 66th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Paraguay, adding further significance to the efforts to deepen their long-standing friendship, according to the ministry.

Mr. Peña had pledged to “strengthen the historic ties” with Taiwan after winning the election in April, saying that he would “look forward to working on mutually beneficial cooperation projects.”

Taiwanese Vice Foreign Minister Alexander Yui personally congratulated him on behalf of the Taiwanese leader during his visit to Paraguay in May and discussed “great projects” with the Paraguayan leadership.

Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory despite Taiwan being a sovereign nation with a democratically elected government. China has, in recent years, persuaded some of Taiwan’s allies to switch allegiance with the prospect of increased trade and investment.

Paraguay became Taiwan’s last diplomatic ally in South America, after Honduras severed ties with Taiwan in favor of China in March, leaving Taiwan with formal diplomatic relations with only 13 countries.

Paraguay–Taiwan Alliance

At the Qatar Economic Forum in May, exiting President Mario Abdo Benítez said Paraguay’s alliance with Taiwan has resulted in a lack of access to the Chinese market as China has refused to do business with Paraguay.

“It is not that Paraguay does not want to do business with anybody. It is the other part that does not want to do business unless we change our diplomatic status,” Mr. Benítez said.

He emphasized that Paraguay remains open to trade with China but won’t bow to Chinese pressure to cut off Taiwan.

Paraguay's President-elect Mario Abdo Benítez (R) greets Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen at his house in Asunción, Paraguay, on Aug. 14, 2018. (Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images)
Paraguay's President-elect Mario Abdo Benítez (R) greets Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen at his house in Asunción, Paraguay, on Aug. 14, 2018. (Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images)

“We are not against doing business with anybody. But we believe that our diplomatic relations should stay firmly with Taiwan,” Mr. Benítez said.

Trade between Paraguay and Taiwan has increased by 500 percent under his five-year administration. He said his ruling party will have “enough arguments” to defend its strategic alliance with Taiwan if this trend continues.

Mr. Peña had pledged during the election campaign to maintain his country’s friendship with Taiwan despite pressure from the local agricultural sector, which wants to open up the lucrative Chinese markets.

According to a 2021 study published in Foreign Policy Analysis, Taiwan invested an average of $4 million per year in Paraguay from 2005 to 2014 and contributed an average of $14.8 million in aid.

The study was authored by Tom Long, an associate professor at the University of Warwick, and Francisco Urdinez, an associate professor at the Institute of Political Science.

“Paraguay received nil from China in aid, investment, or finance, while regional annual average values for countries with diplomatic relations with China represented 1 percent of their GDP [gross domestic product], a striking difference,” the study reads.

“Economic benefits from Taiwan do not compensate for these losses. Taiwan is a small trading partner for Paraguay, in absolute terms and relative to China. In 2018, trade with Taiwan represented 0.33 percent of Paraguay’s total trade.”

Reuters contributed to this report.
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