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  • Interview with Eladio Loizaga, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • When we interviewed President Horacio Cartes recently, he spoke of his desire to see a 'New Paraguay', a country that is open to the world. How are you taking this vision to the world?

    Since President Cartes took office in 2013 we have been working very hard on a regional level, reestablishing and strengthening our bilateral relations with our main partners in our region; countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. We are also making an effort in the European market and developing relations there. I have recently been to Spain where I met with minister of foreign affairs, Jose Garcia-Margallo, and with French foreign minister Laurent Fabius.

    Now the partnership between the Community of Latin American & Caribbean States (CELAC) and Europe is being reestablished, Paraguay would like to be one of the main actors in this process, because we share common values with European countries, values such as democracy, free speech and human rights. It gives us an opportunity to show a new image of Paraguay and that this government is committed to the fight against corruption.

    We approved the law of free access to information that allows people from inside and outside of Paraguay to know what is happening in the government and how we are managing the budget of our country.

    Given the current problems within MERCOSUR, how are you looking to bring the bloc back to its original vision?

    We are currently conducting an inventory on the non-tariff barriers that exist, because this creates a big problem not just for Paraguay but for the whole region. However, we share common goals, especially with Uruguay such as lifting these barriers, as this would allow the free movement of goods, which is the very essence of MERCOSUR. Since we have returned to MERCOSUR, there is more diversity and respect for the decisions of each country.

    Paraguay will hold the rotating presidency of MERCOSUR in 2015-16, what will be your key items on the agenda?

    First of all, we are very happy that Brazil and Uruguay share our feelings regarding how we connect Mercosur inter- nationally, because MERCOSUR must open itself to the rest of the world. We need new trade agreements with other blocs or developed countries. One of our objectives therefore will be to use our presidency to speed up the process of the FTA with the European Union. We are going to have a meeting with the European Trade Commissioner in Brussels this month. This process has been going on for 25 years and we are anxious to see it come into effect.

    Aside from MERCOSUR, which other markets further afield are you looking at for boosting Paraguayan trade and strengthening relations?

    Currently our main buyer of beef is Russia, but their economy is suffering problems, so this shows that we need to open as many markets as we can. We export our beef to thirty-two international markets. We are also an observer of the Pacific Alliance group of Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico and we have a very active trade relationship with each of the Pacific Alliance countries. We have good trade with the Asian markets such as Japan, but we need to make a decision in MERCOSUR whereby the smaller countries such as Paraguay and Uruguay can have more flexibility with these trade relationships. We have already signed Free Trade Agreements with Chile, Colombia and Peru, so we are looking at ways to converge. Paraguay's second biggest trade partner is Chile; we sell more beef to Chile than Brazil or Argentina.

    What is your personal approach to diplomacy in fostering foreign relationships, what are you trying to do differently at the Ministry?

    I am trying to put Paraguay in the international arena principally through organizations like the WTO, UN, and subsidiary bodies of these entities. We are trying to improve relations through presidential diplomacy by attending all kinds of international events where we can build personal relations.

    What message would you like to leave for internation- al investors about opportunities in Paraguay?

    I want to say that Paraguay has very clear and stable rules. We offer predictability for foreign investors; they can count on us and know that we are not going to change the law every year. My door is always open and we are always here to listen and to help any problem that investors may have. We are tough on corruption and we have competitive energy, which is a major factor for companies looking to invest, as well as our clear and simple tax system.