On the morning of July 12, President Tsai Ing-wen met with President-elect Santiago Peña Palacios of the Republic of Paraguay and his wife. In remarks, President Tsai stated that 66 years ago today, Taiwan and Paraguay established official diplomatic ties, so it is especially meaningful to be able to celebrate this occasion here in Taiwan together with Paraguay's incoming president. The president stated that she looks forward to Taiwan and Paraguay standing together on the frontline of democracy and freedom, contributing to global peace, stability, and development. She also expressed hope that our two countries' joint efforts will foster further cooperation between our peoples.
A translation of President Tsai's remarks follows:
On behalf of the people and government of the Republic of China (Taiwan), I want to begin by welcoming President-elect Peña, his wife, and the visiting delegation. After Paraguay's presidential election in May this year, I spoke with the president-elect via conference call, and today I'm delighted to meet in person to exchange ideas.
After I took office in 2016, my first state visit was to Paraguay. Now, President-elect Peña is visiting Taiwan on his first trip to the Asia-Pacific region after being elected, demonstrating the friendship between our two countries. I want to thank President-elect Peña for the importance he places on Taiwan and for offering his support. Sixty-six years ago today, Taiwan and Paraguay established official diplomatic ties, so it is especially meaningful to be able to celebrate this occasion here in Taiwan together with Paraguay's incoming president.
When I last visited Paraguay, President-elect Peña was a member of the cabinet, so I am sure he is familiar with and understands the bilateral cooperation and exchanges between our two countries. Over the past few years Taiwan and Paraguay have continuously deepened our partnership, whether in medicine, women's empowerment, or corporate development.
This is especially true in the field of education. Through programs and projects including the Taiwan Scholarship and Taiwan-Paraguay Polytechnic University (UPTP), over 300 Paraguayan scholarship recipients are now studying in Taiwan. The first cohort of UPTP students will graduate on the 31st of this month. After returning to Paraguay, these students will serve as ideal linkages between our countries.
We are also helping Taiwanese and Paraguayan firms to continue exploring business opportunities. Last year in July and September we organized trade missions to Paraguay, and I'm sure that Taiwan and Paraguay will have more opportunities to enhance cooperation in industries including electric vehicles, food processing, and textiles.
Over the past few years Taiwan and Paraguay have supported each other, overcoming the challenges of the pandemic together and confronting expanding authoritarianism. We also look forward to Taiwan and Paraguay standing together on the frontline of democracy and freedom, contributing to global peace, stability, and development.
This delegation, led by President-elect Peña and his wife, represents the beginning of a new chapter in our bilateral cooperation. I am sure that President-elect Peña, visiting Taiwan again after 24 years, will notice many changes.
I am delighted to welcome all of our distinguished visitors and hope you have the chance to get to know Taiwan better. I hope that our joint efforts will foster further cooperation between our peoples. I wish you all a smooth and successful visit.
President-elect Peña then delivered remarks, saying that he was pleased to be able to bring the sincerest wishes from the Republic of Paraguay's people to Taiwan. He noted that it is no coincidence that he is visiting Taiwan, and especially since he is visiting just five weeks before taking office, his primary purpose is to express profound thanks to President Tsai and the people of Taiwan. He thanked Taiwan for its many years of sharing its impressive experience in national development, and conveyed to the world that we absolutely will not compromise our values or our shared ideals and goals.
President-elect Peña recalled that he first visited Taiwan in 1999 as a student to learn how to guide the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises. Now, visiting as president-elect 24 years later, he said his admiration for Taiwan has deepened rather than diminished. Noting the historical similarities between Taiwan and Paraguay, with both countries having faced tremendous challenges and difficulties, he said that Taiwan's efforts to share its impressive experiences made Paraguayans believe that their future can, like Taiwan, be full of opportunities, and that Paraguay can become a great nation.
The president-elect said that on this day of July 12, 2023, the 66th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Taiwan and Paraguay, the delegation members feel even more determined to redouble their efforts to forge even closer bilateral ties.
Noting that Paraguay was once a great country that now hopes to restore that greatness, President-elect Peña said that a war against the triple alliance of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay long ago led to more than 150 years of developmental stagnation in Paraguay, as well as the loss of 60 percent of its territory and almost 90 percent of its male population. He expressed hope that in the future Paraguay can make significant progress toward eradicating poverty, contribute more to the international community, and have greater global visibility.
President-elect Peña also stated that on April 30, Paraguay's ruling Colorado Party won the presidency with a record-high level of support and a majority of seats in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, as well as most of the country's department governorships. He expressed his belief that Paraguay cannot deny its own past and can never forget the countries that provided assistance during difficult times.
Looking back on his previous work experience, the president-elect stated that Taiwan has been a constant presence. He mentioned that at the age of 21 when he worked in government finance and Paraguay could not provide financing for its citizens, Taiwan provided assistance. When Paraguay issued its first government bonds, he noted that Taiwan was the only country to purchase them, and in 2016 when he was the Minister of Finance, the last of the government bonds were redeemed. For all this, he said, he was very thankful for Taiwan's assistance.
President-elect Peña stated that Paraguay has the best credit rating in Latin America, a highly rated investment environment, and boasts among the best overall economic conditions in Latin America or anywhere in the world. He added that Paraguay has a low inflation rate and little national debt, and that his country continues to pursue national development and public sector investment, but that there are still many challenges that need to be addressed.
President-elect Peña emphasized that his incoming administration is determined to eliminate poverty because, in a country with highly developed agriculture and plentiful agricultural products, it makes absolutely no sense that people should be living under the poverty line. He said he hopes to provide adults and young people with better medical care, education, and career development opportunities, just as Taiwan has been able to do in the past. This, he said, is the best way to achieve national development and prosperity.
President-elect Peña added that he hopes to create 500,000 job opportunities over the next five years through both domestic and foreign investments, and that he intends to ensure that dignified residential justice can be achieved for every citizen. He thanked the government of Taiwan for helping Paraguay to promote public housing projects over the past few years, and noted that the construction of these projects has created many job opportunities.
President-elect Peña mentioned that President Tsai's first overseas state visit after taking office was to Paraguay, and that during her time in office she has provided a great deal of assistance to the people of Paraguay. Besides expressing the deepest gratitude of the Paraguayan people, he reiterated that over the next five years he will stand with the Republic of China (Taiwan), which is both his personal promise and a firm pledge from the people of Paraguay.
President-elect Peña expressed hope that relations between our two countries can reach a new level of closeness and development, and said he would do everything in his power to familiarize Taiwanese companies with his country and encourage them to invest there. This course of action, he said, will not be for diplomatic or political purposes, but is purely for the sake of mutually beneficial trade collaboration and to create win-win situations.
The delegation also included incoming officials Foreign Minister Rubén Ramírez Lezcano, Presidential Chief Secretary Lea Giménez Duarte, Finance Minister Carlos Fernández Valdovinos, and Industry Minister Francisco Javier Giménez García de Zúñiga.