The visit of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to Paraguay is the most important event in the South American country's bilateral relations with Qatar, ambassador Angel Ramon Barchini has said.
Speaking to Gulf Times ahead of HH Amir's weeklong four-nation South American tour starting on October 1, Barchini said "the visit, which is a first by HH the Amir Sheikh Tamim to Paraguay is something very important both for the Government of the Republic of Paraguay and Paraguayan people'.
The ambassador hopes the visit would strengthen further the bilateral relations and certainly be mutually beneficial in the coming days.
"It is significant that during his visit HH the Amir would be meeting the heads of the three branches of our country's government, The Executive, Legislative and Judiciary."
The envoy said a series of agreements aiming to strengthen bilateral relations would be signed during the visit. Barchini also recalled the visit of Paraguay by HH the Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in 2010.
Ambassador Angel Ramon Barchini
While remembering some of the visits to Qatar by delegations from Paraguay, the ambassador mentioned those by Ministers of Finance, Industry and Commerce, and Culture. He also highlighted the arrival of delegations led by the President of the Congress, the parliament of Paraguay, Vice-President of the Republic, Advisor (with the rank of minister) to the President and President of the National Industry of Cement.
The ambassador said his country's government is working hard to open new markets and special attention is paid to both attract investments from the Middle East and Asian countries and also boost exports.
"We are currently exporting premium beef and charcoal to Qatar and accelerating efforts to export food products such as soya, chicken and Stevia (a sugar substitute that comes from a plant) in the near future."
Barchini said it is important for Paraguay to open new markets in Qatar as well as elsewhere in the Gulf as that would help open the gateway to the entire Asian continent.
The ambassador also highlighted that his country has signed an array of bilateral and international investment protection treaties and especially recognised international arbitration, which would effectively mean foreigners can seek redress in an international forum in the event of any disputes.
"Paraguay's Foreign Investment Law 117/91 reiterates that foreigners have the same guarantees, rights and obligations as those enjoyed by any Paraguayan investor. There are no restricted areas, no discrimination or limitations," he added.
The envoy highlighted that Paraguay's Law 60/90 for foreign investment grants tax incentives for investments. "Investments could be in the form of capital (including loans etc), equipment, trademarks, technology transfers and likewise. In return for investments, such exemptions as waiving of government fees for registering companies, and total exemption from customs duties are granted to the foreign investors."
Similarly, the investor is given total exemption from withholding tax on repayment of loans exceeding $5mn, said Barchini while also pointing out that investors are also entitled to total exemption from taxes on profits and dividends for 10 years for investments exceeding $5mn.
While stressing the advantages for investors under the Law 60/90, the ambassador said incentives are generally approved within 45 days of application. "Under Paraguay's Maquila programme, based on a similar programme in Mexico, permission is granted to a local entity to enter into a contract with a foreign investor company to produce goods or services for export only," he said. The system has allowed for duty-free import of raw materials and a complete tax exemption with the exception of a 1% fixed tax on turn over.
Elaborating further, Barchini said Paraguay, which has an agriculture-based economy, is the world's largest producer of organic sugar, and second largest manufacturer of Stevia. "We are also the sixth largest soy producer and seventh largest exporter of beef across the world."
His country's booming beef industry, said the Paraguayan ambassador, is presenting enormous opportunities for animal genetics, fertilisers, pest control, farm equipment and processing machinery.
Barchini also mentioned about the growth in the construction and industrial sectors in Paraguay which he said has surpassed the demand for the locally produced manufactured construction materials, particularly cement and concrete.
"The rapid demand for the construction of warehouses for industry and agriculture has surpassed the capacity of local companies that build roofing systems. The demand is also growing phenomenally for superior quality construction materials, which are not currently produced locally."
The ambassador has no doubt that Paraguay's projected large infrastructure projects would require new or used heavy machinery as well as engineering, project management, consulting and financial services.
During the interview the ambassador pointed out that his country has been receiving immigrants from the Arab world for quite long and the biggest Arab communities in Paraguay are from those who came from Lebanon and Syria several decades ago .
"Visiting Arab countries has become more affordable than before and the operations of daily flights between some parts of South America and the Gulf region have contributed to a sharp rise in the number of tourists arriving to the Arabian region," said the envoy.
Answering another query, Barchini said his country is among the more than 80 countries whose people have the advantage of visa on arrival facility in Qatar. "Similarly, Qatari nationals are also entitled to the same benefit at the Paraguayan airports," he said.
The ambassador hoped a large number of opportunities may be created in such areas as civil aviation consulting and related engineering services, airport infrastructure and technologies, weather monitoring equipment, safety and security equipment, air traffic control systems, and baggage and cargo handling equipment and systems in his country.
"This is because a new airport complex would be built on private public partnership at the site of the current Silvio Pettirossi International Airport in Luque."
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