Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez yesterday said the friendship between his country and Taiwan would never change and that Paraguay would forever remain Taiwan’s loyal ally in South America.
Asked about his country’s commitment to Taiwan amid a rash of defections by allies in Latin America and the Caribbean to China, Abdo Benitez told a news conference in Taipei that Paraguay has business relations with every country in the world, but that was no reason to abandon its allies.
“We won’t sacrifice our ties with any of our allies or good friends” over business relations with another country, he said.
“We firmly believe no country in the world can restrict our sovereign decision to make friends with another country,” he added.
Paraguay has had diplomatic ties with Taiwan since 1957 and is its only ally in South America among its 17 worldwide.
Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, Taiwan has lost five diplomatic allies, including three in the Central American and Caribbean region: Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.
Paraguay can serve as a gateway for Taiwanese businesses to the huge South American market, which has a population of 400 million, and to the North American market, Abdo Benitez said.
Paraguay’s economy has been growing at a rate of at least 4.5 percent annually for the past 20 years and it has an excellent investment climate and stable social order, he said.
With its tax incentives and sound legal protections for foreign investors, Paraguay is encouraging Taiwanese businesses to invest there, he said.
After more than 60 years of diplomatic relations, Abdo Benitez said he hopes to further enhance bilateral relations so that the two sides could become strategic partners to their mutual benefit.
Taiwan is renowned for its technological advancements, while Paraguay’s main exports are agricultural products, he said, adding that the two countries complement each other and are a perfect match.
Abdo Benitez, his wife, Silvana Lopez Moreira de Abdo, and a Paraguayan delegation are in Taiwan on a six-day visit at Tsai’s invitation to attend Wednesday’s Double Ten National Day celebrations.
In an address at an honor guard ceremony in Taipei on Monday, Abdo Benitez said the trip was like a “homecoming,” because his family has close ties to Taiwan.
His father, Mario Abdo Benitez Sr, served as private secretary to former Paraguayan president Alfredo Stroessner, and helped forge diplomatic relations with Taiwan 61 years ago.
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