World, Americas

Paraguay, Turkey strengthen trade, cooperation

Foreign Minister Antonio Rivas Palacios speaks about growing interest of Turkish businessmen in Paraguay

Lorena Flores   | 22.01.2020
Paraguay, Turkey strengthen trade, cooperation

ASUNCION, Paraguay

Though Paraguay and Turkey have had permanent diplomatic relations since 1953, the opening of the Turkish embassy in Asuncion on Nov. 20, 2018 marked a new stage in the process of strengthening ties.

The mission's opening was accompanied by a historic visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Paraguay.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Paraguayan Foreign Minister Antonio Rivas Palacios recalled that "on this visit, we laid the foundations for greater commercial exchange and investment establishment with a Eurasian country of almost 80 million inhabitants, which according to their GDP per capita will be the world’s 13th largest economy."

What are the benefits that diplomatic relations with Turkey have brought?

The spotlight is on the opening of the Turkish embassy, which establishes a closer link in the framework of the bilateral relationship, that is also transformed into an approach at the highest level.

The presence of President Erdogan here in Asuncion and also of Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu enriches a mutual knowledge at the governmental level but also on a social level. It generated a commercial economic approach where there is a channel that allows the investor to know what is happening in Paraguay, the opportunities it offers, and recognizes the central location of Paraguay in Mercosur (trade bloc). In that sense, it should be noted that this semester, we hold the provisional presidency of Mercosur.

In November, the growing interest of Turkish businessmen in our country showed us what the country represents, its economic stability, its discipline, the opportunities it offers as a gateway to Mercosur, and the young platform that Paraguay has with people under 30 years old representing 70% of the population.

In commercial terms, what benefits and which new items would be entering Paraguay?

We export soybeans to Turkey. We also need to increase exports of non-traditional products such as sesame, leather and textiles. This year, among the main exported products are cotton, oil seeds and oleaginous fruits, charcoal, broad beans, beans, seeds, soybeans, bran, and other residues of the sifting of cereals.

The commercial exchange with Turkey is concentrated in traditional products of the export basket of Paraguay (mainly soy) and therefore very susceptible to the price/market ratio.

We are waiting for the presence of a veterinary inspection mission that would probably come in the second quarter of the year and that would make Paraguay able to export meat to Turkey.

In 2018, Turkey was ranked the 17th destination for our exports to the rest of the world, with $74.5 million and in 22nd place of our global imports with $58.3 million. In 2019, total exports to the country reached $7.4 million.

Both countries have cooperation in other non-commercial areas such as culture, education and tourism?

Ambassador Armagan Inci Ersoy is mainly working to increase the cultural relationship. The broadcast of Turkish soap operas, for example, they reach more than 150 countries worldwide and move the culture of that country to reach geographically as distant allies as we are.

In tourism, the great Turkish experience also constitutes a possibility of learning for Paraguay.

Another quite concrete opportunity for Paraguay is the Turkey Scholarship program. About 30,000 students have graduated from university and postgraduate studies at Turkish institutions, including three Paraguayans, and the challenge is to increase the number of applicants.

What opportunity does the Turkish Agency for Cooperation and Coordination (TIKA) represent for Paraguay?

It represents an important opportunity for Paraguay to face some of its recurring problems. We have already received complete equipment for neonatal units, equipment for technical schools, as well as donations for the “Republic of Turkey” school in Paraguay.

How was the business mission that visited Turkey in November last year?

Last year, two trade missions were made in Turkey, and two other Turkish missions in Paraguay. More than 40 national entrepreneurs from the construction, engineering, metallurgical, steel, recycling, auto parts, defense equipment, livestock, renewable energy and pharmaceutical sectors, among others, came to our country, generating more than 50 business meetings and 15 bilateral meetings with public institutions, companies and private unions. They tried to understand better our country and deepen business opportunities.

When is President Mario Abdo Benitez's visit to Turkey set for?

The president's visit is scheduled for March 2020. And in that regard, the culmination of negotiations for the signing of the Agreement for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments is aimed at granting greater predictability and legal certainty through a stable legal framework for investments and investors of both countries, in order to increase and strengthen economic relations between the two nations.

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