For years, Paraguay has maintained friendly relations with Taiwan, thanks to its long-term ruling party, the conservative National Republican Association — Colorado Party. Even if a candidate from the Authentic Radical Liberal Party were elected president, it would not hold a majority in the country. Paraguay has therefore contributed to a unique situation in South America: It is a right-wing country among mostly leftist governments.
Last month in an interview with the Financial Times, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez appealed to Taiwan for a US$1 billion investment in his country so that he could resist the “enormous” pressure to switch diplomatic recognition to China. Taiwan should indeed devote more efforts to Paraguay, which has never asked Taiwan for a favor before.
Besides, Taiwan received a generous gift from Abdo Benitez’s predecessor, Horacio Cartes: a free-trade agreement. Given that Paraguay is a member of Mercosur, the Southern Common Market, the trade agreement with Paraguay would connect Taiwan with the South American trade bloc. That was in 2017, when China imposed the first wave of import bans on products from Taiwan.
Moreover, on July 16, the Taiwanese embassy in Paraguay announced that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association organized their “Taiwan Economic and Business Cooperation Mission to Central and South America.” The delegation visited Paraguay and was received by Abdo Benitez. This means that opportunities for investment in the market are all in place.
Despite being surrounded by China’s diplomatic allies, Paraguay offers Taiwan a gateway to the region. South American countries do Paraguay a big favor, allowing Taiwanese businesspeople channels for export and opportunities for investment. Which of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies would venture to do this?
Of course, in terms of market size, it is impossible for Taiwan to compete with China, but it can offer military assistance to Paraguay and has done so for a long time. The Republic of China Army has provided Humvees and helicopters to Paraguay to fight terrorism.
Could it be that Taiwan cannot afford to purchase Paraguayan agricultural products? During former US president Donald Trump’s administration, Taiwan bought US$1.5 billion of soybeans from the US. Abdo Benitez asked for US$1 billion in “investment,” which means it would earn a profit.
Taiwan needs Mercosur, and Paraguay needs Taiwan’s money to satisfy internal demand and deepen its collaboration with Taiwan. What more is there to discuss?
Meanwhile, the “giant babies” in Paraguay who complain about Paraguay’s remarks are actually helping China. Those who do not appreciate “give and take” are shameful. As human beings, reciprocity is the most fundamental principle. Please do not shame Taiwanese.
Remember also that the Financial Times is an influential publication that is read in the White House.
Through the Financial Times, Abdo Benitez communicated the following to the US: “Paraguay has supported and will firmly support Taiwan for years to come. At the same time, we have kept for you, the US, a strategic point in South America. Taiwan understands the situation and has helped us train our military and police. Surely, it would not be too much for the US to help with our economy and trade.”
Wang Wen-sheng is a doctoral student at Jindal University in India.
Translated by Liu Yi-hung
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