Wed, Jul 07, 2004 - Page 3 News List

MOEA set to negotiate FTA with Paraguay

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Taiwanese official delegation will visit Paraguay later this month to negotiate groundwork for the two nations' Free Trade Agreement (FTA) while Argentina acknowledged it had teamed up with Brazil to try and force Paraguay into switching its diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing.

Minister of Economic Affairs (MOEA) Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) and her deputy, Steve Chen (陳瑞隆), will lead the delegation to attend a conference on economic cooperation between Taiwan and Paraguay in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion on July 19 and 20, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced yesterday.

The countries' FTA talks and other economic cooperation programs will top the delegation's agenda, said Wu Chin-mu (吳進木), deputy director general of the ministry's Department of Central and South American Affairs.

The delegation is slated for departure on July 16.

"The FTA talks are facing a major problem. Paraguay is one of the four founding members of Mercosur [Mercado Comun del Sur], or the South American Common Market. It has to obtain the other three members' consent to sign an FTA with Taiwan," said Wu.

Paraguay is working on how to get the other three member states to agree to its signing an FTA with Taiwan, according to Wu.

Mercosur was created by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in March 1991 with the signing of the Treaty of Asuncion.

It originally was set up with the ambitious goal of creating a common market/customs union between the participating countries on the basis of various forms of economic cooperation that had been taking place between Argentina and Brazil since 1986.

During a visit to China last week, Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner said that he and President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have tried to get Paraguay, Taiwan's only ally in South America, change its recognition to Beijing.

"China said it wants to sign an FTA with Mercosur. It called Paraguay an obstacle in negotiating the agreement, because it is not China's ally. Beijing told President's Kirchner and Lula da Silva during their recent visits to China about the Paraguay problem because it wants Brazil and Argentina to exert pressure on Paraguay," Wu said.

"Paraguay acknowledged that it has been under considerable pressure from Brazil and Argentina, but it is firm in maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Public opinion in Paraguay has been critical of Brazil and Argentina's interference into Paraguay's internal affairs," he said.

Nicaragua and Guatemala, said Wu, are also interested in starting FTA negotiations with Taiwan.

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