May 2024 \ Cover Story \ DIPLOMATIC INTERVIEW
“Our relations are at their best momentum”

Paraguay’s Ambassador to India H.E. Fleming Raul Duarte Ramos responds to questions from our Diplomatic and Business Editor Yogesh Sood on a range of issues.

By Yogesh Sood

Excellency, how would you describe the current state of relations between India and Paraguay compared to the past?

I would certainly affirm that the relations between India and Paraguay are currently at their best momentum. Over recent years, both countries have displayed a deep commitment to fostering a robust partnership, marked by high-level visits at the Ministerial level, Private Sector Leaders and an increasing exchange of trade and investment. The strengthening of diplomatic ties has further solidified the bond between our two nations, paving the way for enhanced collaboration in various fields.

The increasing cultural exchanges and growing interest in each other’s heritage serve as a testament to the deepening bond between our nations, laying a strong foundation for an even more prosperous and enduring partnership in the years to come

The present state of relations between India & Paraguay reflects a shared vision for mutual prosperity and development. Both countries have been proactive in identifying areas of common interest and leveraging each other’s strengths to drive economic growth and innovation. This has led to new projects and a lot of optimism regarding the future of our bilateral relationship.

Could you let us know about some of the high-level visits between our two nations in recent times?

The momentum is right now with a vibrant new India mission that opened two years back in Asuncion and was inaugurated in August 2022, by EAM Dr. Jaishankar. He was received by the Paraguayan President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and also unveiled the Bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the Costanera (Asuncion’s magnificent bay side), in the capital city. EAM had earlier met the then-Paraguayan Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the 74th UNGA on 26 September 2019 in New York

More recently Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture, Smt. Meenakshi Lekhi visited Paraguay in November 2023. During her visit, Minister Lekhi addressed the Indian diaspora and the ITEC alumni, commending their unity and contribution to upholding India’s image in Paraguay. Her interactions further emphasized the shared cultural and historical connections between India and Paraguay, reaffirming the commitment to deepening bilateral relations. She was received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, the Minister of Culture and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, where new Paraguay-India Parliamentary Commission members have been announced. A Paraguayan Parliamentary delegation visited India and interaction between people to people is mounting.

Vice President of India Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu paid an official visit to Paraguay from 5-7 March 2019 - the senior- most visit from India to Paraguay since the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Vice President was accompanied by a high-level delegation including the Minister of State for Tourism Shri K.J. Alphons, Member of Parliament, Shri R. K. Kashyap and senior Government officials.

Ministerial-level visits between the two countries have taken place from time to time. Paraguayan Minister of Tourism Ms Sofía Montiel de Afara, visited India to attend the World Tourism Day celebrations on 30 September 2019 and met the Vice President of India and Minister of Tourism Shri Prahlad Singh Patel. An agreement on tourism was signed between both ministers.

Secretary East Riva Ganguly Das led the third Foreign Office Consultations between the two countries that took place in Asuncion in December of 2021 and have been institutionalized through the signing of an MOU in 2022.

Paraguayan High Officials have mentioned their willingness to visit India this year to new elected officials and at the same time are open to welcome any forthcoming high visits from their Indian Colleagues to deepen our bilateral relations.

What is the level of bilateral trade between our two countries?

According to official Indian sources, our main export product, Paraguayan soybean oil has tripled in the last decade. Currently, in India there is a middle class of 150 million people, in the next decade, this will increase to 400 million people. This demographic projection is expected to be positive for Paraguayan exports. India ranks 5th in Paraguayan exports worldwide.

Paraguay’s trade surplus with India in the last 6 years has grown on an annual average in the order of 16%. Regarding the period from January to December 2019, the trade surplus reached US$ 8,926,309. A profile market study has been developed for both India and the countries of the competition to promote the placement of new items with exportable offers. Special interest was aroused in importing higher volumes and new products such as Unconventional Chia, Soy, Sesame and Sunflower Oils, Organic Rice, Stevia, Macadamia and Cashew Nuts, Mungotype beans.

The main export items of Paraguay to India are waste and scrap of iron, steel, aluminium, copper and lead, soybean crude oil, hides and skins of bovine and essential oils. Main export items from India to Paraguay include iron and steel, plastics, fungicides, small agri-tractors, motorbikes, insecticides, car tyres, tobacco and auto parts.

Paraguay is a member of MERCOSUR. An India-MERCOSUR Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) was concluded on 25 January 2004 and became operational in June 2009. Preferential duty (10-20 % in most cases) is given to certain Indian Products entering MERCOSUR countries and vice versa. India offers an additional 10% margin of preference to Paraguay for a Tariff Rate Quota of imports of crude soybean oil up to 30,000 MT/year. After the Crisis in the International Value Chain of the supply of food and especially for edible oils, India started to demand more of these products from the region with a tariff of 5% over a multiyear horizon.

The existing trade relations demands the revision of the mentioned PTA along with a more active engagement of our authorities in negotiating not only at the multilateral levels but also between both nations to expand and diversify our trade ties. As the Ambassador of Paraguay to India, I am optimistic about the potential for further strengthening our trade relations and exploring new avenues for cooperation that will benefit the economies of both countries and ultimately the welfare of our citizens

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