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Updated Feb 14, 2023, 8:55am EST
East Asia

Paraguay president visits Taiwan as Taipei seeks to strengthen ties

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The News

Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday for a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen as Taipei seeks to strengthen their diplomatic relationship ahead of April elections in Paraguay.

Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo arrives in Taipei. Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via REUTERS
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Know More

Paraguay’s relationship with Taiwan has featured prominently on campaign trails in the run-up to the former country’s presidential election in April.

Efraín Alegre, the opposition candidate, has threatened to cut Paraguay’s diplomatic relations with the self-ruling island, claimed by Beijing, were he to win. “Paraguay must have relations with China,” Alegre said, “our interests in livestock and grain sectors are currently suffering a major loss.”

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Soybean and soybean products make up more than 30% of Paraguay’s exports, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity. And China is the country’s biggest soybean client, importing nearly seven times more than the European Union, the second largest.

The candidate for the ruling party, Santiago Peña — who holds a 20% lead in the polls according to Ati Snead, a Paraguayan pollster — has said Paraguay would maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan were he to win.

I do not see any change in that sense,” Peña told Reuters. “I will defend the historical relationship with Taiwan.”

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In an interview with the Financial Times last year, Abdo called on Taiwan to invest $1 billion in Paraguay for the countries to remain allies. This would help Paraguay resist the “enormous” pressure to switch diplomatic allegiances to China, he said.

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The View From Taiwan

Relations between Taiwan and Paraguay have been “shaky,” according to the Taipei Times.

However, Taipei has attempted to bolster them.

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During a visit by the head of Paraguay’s Chamber of Deputies earlier this year, President Tsai described the relationship between the two countries as a “deep friendship.”

Cooperation between the two nations is excellent, Tsai said, while trade relations are improving.

“I would like to emphasise again that in the face of the continued expansion of authoritarianism, we allies on the democratic front must strengthen cooperation to jointly protect our way of life,” Tsai added.

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Step Back

Only 14 countries have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, eight of them in Latin America and the Caribbean.

But commodity-exporting countries find it increasingly difficult to ignore the giant Chinese market, as Beijing tries to lure them away from Taiwan with offers of aid, loans, and trade. Just last year, Nicaragua — an important beef exporter — switched its diplomatic allegiance to Beijing.

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