Tell us a bit about the history and the ideals of the Chamber
The Chamber came into being towards the end of the Stroessner government with the aim of boosting trade between the U.S. and Paraguay as a meeting point for local businesspeople and international companies looking on Paraguay as a great country based on free trade, the defence of democracy, human rights, rights of property and intellectual property.
In the beginning the Chamber was known for its business lunches and its local and international conferences, which have a wide audience. Through the Chamber we established the base for the direction that the country should be moving in both economically and politically, not only in terms of its relations with the U.S. but in creating an environment of open enterprise, an interesting environment for any investor coming from any part of the world.
Paraguay does in fact offer very good conditions. It has a stable economy, the simplest and least costly tax regime in the region, and a peaceable workforce.
What benefits does the local market offer investors from the U.S.?
Paraguay does in fact offer very good conditions. It has a stable economy, the simplest and least costly tax regime in the region, and a peaceable workforce – we don’t have the significant conflicts with trade-unions that you might see in other countries.
I would like, however, to add one thing about training. For the most part we have an unskilled workforce which has distinguished itself only through capability and work-ethic, and taking into account Paraguay’s demographic advantage – in that 60% of its population is under 35 years of age –, the country has enormous potential for the future.
Would you care to comment on the trade balance between the U.S. and Paraguay?
U.S. presence in Paraguay is quite limited at present. Looked at applied figures, we are talking about an import/export balance worth about US$1.2 billion. If I’m not mistaken, imports are at 800 or 900 million and our exports are worth around 300 million.
Azucarera Paraguaya (AZPA) has the biggest presence, exporting organic sugar, which accounts for 70-80% of exports, followed by veneers for furniture or construction, and the rest of these exports are variable – they change year on year.
What can you tell us about American Foreign Direct Investment in the country?
U.S. presence, when compared with other countries in the region, is small. We do, however, have four large companies operating here, namely ADM, Bunge, Cargill, and Dreyfus. We have moved towards industrialisation, and Dreyfus and ADAM have made an agreement and set up a major plant, so that now more than half of the country’s production has now been industrialised.
What is your message of confidence on the future of trade in Paraguay?
I think that the most important message comes from the success stories of foreign companies who have already set up in Paraguay. No company that has arrived, met legal requirements, and gone about its business in the correct way has had any problem in Paraguay. In my opinion, Paraguay’s image up until a few years ago was worse than the reality, and now we are arriving at a truer image of the country – Paraguay as a land of opportunity, a land of growth.