Paraguay’s outgoing President Mario Abdo Benitez said yesterday that Paraguay is ready to trade with China but will not succumb to pressure to sever ties with Taiwan.

At the Qatar Economic Forum, Benitez said that newly elected Paraguayan President Santiago Peña Palacios, who is assuming office in August, has pledged to maintain relations with Taiwan. Both Benitez and Peña are from the conservative Colorado Party.

Before the election in April, Pedro Efraín Alegre Sasiain, the candidate for the opposition Authentic Radical Liberal Party, said that he would cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish relations with China if he were elected into office. 

Peña’s victory is seen as a relief for Taiwan in diplomacy as Beijing ratchets up efforts to isolate Taipei internationally.

Paraguay is Taiwan’s last diplomatic ally in South America. Honduras in March became the latest Central American nation in recent years to switch allegiance to Beijing, following the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama, leaving Belize and Guatemala among the just 13 countries that have official ties with Taipei.

Paraguay’s big businesses and opposition parties have urged the government to establish ties with Beijing to gain access to the Chinese market. But Benitez said he changed Paraguay’s “strategic alliance” with Taiwan after taking office in 2018, and trade between the two countries has increased drastically since then.

Paraguay’s trade with Taiwan, he said, has increased by 500 % during his term from 2018 to 2023, and if this continued, “we can have enough arguments to defend our strategic alliance with Taiwan.”

Beef is Paraguay’s main export to Taiwan. In 2022, Paraguay exported 38,800 tons to Taiwan, and this year the goal was raised to 50,000 tons to make up for the sales volume lost due to the inability to export to Russia.

Benitez suggested Paraguay should take advantage of the Southern Common Market, or Mercosur, to strike deals with China. 

Brazil’s President Lula Inacio Lula da Silva has recently said Mercosur should put trade with China at the top of its agenda. But Benitez said, “we are not against doing business with anybody but we believe that our diplomatic relations should stay firmly with Taiwan.”

Some information for the story came from The News Lens Chinese edition and AFP.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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