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Remarks by Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Business Roundtable and the Evening Reception on the Occasion of the Inauguration of Paraguay President-Elect Mario Abdo Benítez, Asuncion, Paraguay

AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Thank you, Ambassador McClenny, for your kind introduction and for greeting our delegation today at the airport. On behalf of the delegation of U.S. officials who have flown with me from Washington, thank you all for being here and welcoming us to Paraguay.

We are honored to be attending the inauguration of Paraguay’s new President Abdo Benítez. I am here on behalf of President Trump, First Lady Melania and the President’s family, who have asked that I extend to you — and all of the people of Paraguay — his warmest greetings.

We want to provide you all with our assurances that the United States will always be a loyal friend, an ally, and a partner of Paraguay. Our being here — representing 328 million Americans — is a demonstration of our long-standing friendship.

We have strong, historic ties to Paraguay going back a long time — 140 years — to the 19th President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, and his instrumental role in the resolution of the devastating Triple Alliance War. President Hayes helped solidify your nation’s borders and protect your country’s unique culture.

We want to further strengthen the bonds between our nations.

I had the privilege of meeting your President-elect when he visited Washington, D.C., earlier this month. We had a very constructive dialogue. I told him that the United States is committed to Paraguay.

The U.S. government has recently commenced construction of a major new embassy here, which is indicative of our dedication to your country.

We have seen almost 100 major American companies open operations and succeed in your market.

We have one of the largest contingents of Peace Corps Volunteers anywhere in the world, with 180 Volunteers currently serving throughout the country. The Peace Corps has been engaged in Paraguay for an uninterrupted period of 51 years, with almost 5,000-Volunteer Americans having served here.

And the United States is an open market for products exported from Paraguay.

We can help grow your already growing economy by supporting the adoption of digital technologies; providing ideas on how to protect intellectual property; and improving transparency in contracting.

We want to work with your new President and his government on a variety of economic and commercial initiatives. We want to see the government here succeed in improving the business climate, thereby fostering growth and opportunity for all of your companies and citizens of Paraguay.

We are also here to reinforce America’s commitment to the region, for we know that our global competitors have targeted Latin America in a way that may not prove beneficial for anyone other than those who want to exploit resources and burden countries with unhealthy levels of debt. We have no intention of working in such a manner.

When I met with President-elect Benítez, I told him that the United States wants to grow the trade relationship between our two countries. Annual trade between the U.S. and Paraguay was $2.9 billion in 2017, but exports from Paraguay to the United States are falling, and China has now surpassed the United States as the country’s top trading partner.

To address these issues, the Commerce Department is organizing a major trade mission to Paraguay next March, and we are examining opportunities for increasing our Foreign Commercial Service operations in Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina.

The new President was elected on a reform ticket, with a priority to improve transparency and fight corruption. American companies are positioned to help in such a movement because they are required to abide by the Foreign Corrupt Policies Act, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1977, and has been strictly enforced ever since. When government officials in Paraguay conduct business with U.S. companies, the local citizenry is guaranteed that there will be no clandestine or back-door deals.

The United States will always be a true friend and ally of Paraguay. Thank you again for welcoming us to your country. We look forward to the inauguration of your new President.

Again, on behalf of President Trump and all of the citizens of the United States, congratulations President Benítez. We wish for him and for Paraguay a very successful Presidency.

Leadership