Rich in natural resources and with a foreigner-friendly environment, Paraguay is rife with business opportunities for Koreans, the Paraguayan Ambassador said on Friday.
Ceferino Valdez said in an interview with The Korea Herald that Paraguay also has no restrictions for foreign companies when buying land.
And both governments are working to help Korean companies in Paraguay by eliminating double taxation.
“The negotiation is already quite advanced and a delegation is coming to finish the matters,” Valdez said, adding that the Paraguayan delegation plans to arrive this month.
This opens the gateway for investors to come into Paraguay and join the thousands that have already immigrated to the country since the beginning of the 19th century.
Korea and Paraguay also signed an open-skies accord last May, which will allow for an unlimited number of flights by Korean airlines to the Latin country, paving the way for the first direct commercial route between the countries.
Paraguay currently exports soybeans, corn, mate tea and other agricultural products, but according to the ambassador Paraguay’s food product exports into Korea are still low, citing $11 million last year. The ambassador cites the country’s previous focus on exports to Europe and other countries as one of the main reasons for such low numbers to Korea.
The country, which is roughly four times the size of Korea, has plenty of fertile land but needs more investors to come in and increase production, according to the ambassador.
He added, however, that more and more Koreans were privately looking to Paraguay to expand or start their own operations in the country.
Paraguayan Ambassador Ceferino Valdez speaks about the new Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency center set to open in Paraguay during an interview with The Korea Herald on Friday. (Robert Lee/The Korea Herald)
And with this year falling on the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, Paraguayans are not unfamiliar with Koreans and their products.
Korean brands take the bulk of the automobile market, and Korean computers and cosmetics also have a firm presence, the ambassador said.
Bilateral trade between the two countries jumped from $55 million in 2005 to $251 million in 2011, with numbers continuing to rise. In the first half of 2012 bilateral trade reached $167 million, with Paraguayan exports skyrocketing since 2010.
And to further help spur investments on both ends, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency will be opening an office in Paraguay in the beginning of September.
Korea and Paraguay already have several projects on the table including one that involves Korea’s own four-river restoration project.
Both countries have signed an agreement and a delegation will be visiting from Paraguay to meet with representatives of the four-river project, according to Valdez.
The delegations have been in talks regarding the Paraguay River, a 2,550-kilometer-long river that runs from Brazil through Paraguay and out to Argentina. According to the ambassador, officials have had problems with cleaning obstructive sediment from the river including stones and sand.
And at the end of August, the Korean delegation will travel to Paraguay before the country’s own Minister of Public Works and Communication, Enrique Salyn Buzarquis, comes to Korea to meet with officials here.
Korea is also involved in a feasibility study that is looking into the modernization of Paraguay’s airports.
Paraguay has also signed an agreement with the Korea Forest Service for the production, export and marketing of forest products, according to Valdez.
Paraguay has also seen a recent jump in population, with 70 percent of the nation’s 6.5 million people under the age of 30.
“We need more (cooperation) in health for the children and education. This is where Korea is very strong and we are working with Korea on the matter,” said Valdez.
The Korea International Cooperation Agency will be opening a hospital in the Paraguayan city of Santa Rosa on Aug. 29, according to the ambassador.
Also, in the field of education, Paraguay has seen numerous efforts by the Korean government for both teachers and students.
Korea has invited 17 teachers from Paraguay to be trained in North Jeolla Province in information technology and education, according to Valdez.
Other efforts include those of the KOICA and the National Institute for International Education which has brought over 12 Paraguayan undergraduate and graduate students so that they may pursue both undergraduate and master’s degrees here.
The students study everything from business to international relations and journalism.
“This is very important because these students are not only learning the career that they want to follow but also they are learning the language, tradition, and also culture of Korea,” said the Paraguayan ambassador.
“When they go back to Paraguay they will serve as a bridge between the two countries not only for culture and tradition but also for business,” he said.
The Overseas Koreans Foundation cites the number of Koreans in Paraguay at over 5,200, which has spawned Korean communities in the country.
“We have Korean restaurants, Korean churches, Korean schools and Korean saunas,” said the ambassador. He added that when a Korean comes to Paraguay, they do not feel like they are in a foreign country.
By Robert Lee (email@example.com