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Paraguay and Japan: 100 years of thriving partnership

By Peter Tase

The century long Paraguay-Japan alliance and strategic economic partnership is perfectly depicted through the vivid paintings of Yuki Hayashi, a female painter born in Itapúa grown up in a colony of Japanese immigrants, in Southern Paraguay.  Hayashi’s roses painted on canvas encompass the multifaceted partnership and successful diplomatic alliance that has existed between Asuncion and Tokyo since a hundred years ago, a time when both countries established their diplomatic relations and on November 17th, 1919 signed a bilateral trade agreement under the leadership of Paraguayan President José Pedro Montero and Emperor Taishō. 

These unique relations have been strengthened thanks to the enormous contributions and presence of Japanese immigrants in Paraguay, economic assistance and technical support provided by the Japanese Government towards the socio-economic development of Paraguay and the commercial and cultural exchange that has existed for decades among both nations.

The establishment of Japanese colonies in Paraguay began in 1936 with the arrival of the first Japanese families in La Colmena City.  After a brief intromission due to the Second World War, the diplomatic relations were re-established once again in 1959, both governments subscribed a convention on migration that enabled 85,000 Japanese immigrants to establish their homes in Paraguay. 

In 1960, approximately ten thousand Japanese immigrants started their new lives in the Departments of Itapúa, Alto Parana and Amambay, dedicated to agriculture, beekeeping and apiculture.   
 
Today Paraguay is home of over ten thousand Japanese descendants who are tremendously contributing towards the economic development, improvement of agricultural production standards and public education infrastructure. Furthermore, the Japanese community’s hard work and spirit of sacrifice is greatly admired by the Paraguayan people. Japanese Diaspora in Paraguay, is a genuine bridge that connects Eastern Asian societies with the South American Continent and helps establish a transpacific bondage.  

Furthermore, since 1959, when Paraguay was governed by General Alfredo Stroessner, a staunch U.S. ally during the Cold War; the Japanese Government has provided economic and technical assistance to Paraguay, generously assisting some of the most vulnerable sectors of Paraguayan society including: public education, culture, strengthening of public health services, technical training, agricultural development programs, improvement of national infrastructure and vocational training and scholarships.    

On December 2nd, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe conducted a historic visit to Asunción; in his meeting with President Mario Abdo Benítez were discussed the following issues: 

  • Prime Minister Abe, as the first Prime Minister of Japan to visit Paraguay, appreciated   that Paraguay shares universal values with Japan as a historical and friendly nation that is home to Nikkei community of approximately 10,000 people.  Prime Minister Abe stated that 2019 marks the 100thanniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Paraguay.     
  • President Abdo Benítez welcomed Prime Minister Abe and noted that this visit marks an important moment in the long and positive history between Japan and Paraguay; he is the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Asunción. 
  • Both leaders welcomed the dynamic political dialogue and trade and investment-related initiatives observed in recent decades, they reaffirmed the conclusion of negotiations on a bilateral investment agreement.
  • In the field of development cooperation, Mr. Abe welcomed Paraguay’s request for a grant aid in improving public health and medical care services, as well as approval of a grant aid for the “Project for Procurement of Dredging Equipment for Paraguay River”.  This infrastructure project will continue to support economic growth and Paraguay’s sustainable economic development in the future.  President Abdo Benitez expressed his gratitude for the cooperation extended by Japan.      
  • In his public statement, Prime Minister Abe stated that Nikkei community in Paraguay contributes to Paraguay’s economic development, and are performing an important role as a “bridge” in the relations between the two nations.   President Abdo Benítez expressed his gratitude for the contributions of Nikkei community to Paraguay’s economy and society.  
  • In the field of people-to-people exchange, both statesmen welcomed the fact that bilateral cooperation is moving forward in a myriad of sectors, including the fields of space research, university to university partnerships and scholarships, science, engineering education, transfer of agricultural technology and sports.     

The silhouettes of Yuki’s paintings and supremacy of her colors encompassed within her extract of artistic conception, genuinely depict the sublime friendship that has existed between Paraguay and Japan while it is poised to forge a lasting fraternity that bolster the economies and unites cultures of both nations.

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Peter Tase

Peter Tase is a contributor, freelance journalist and a research scholar of International Affairs, Paraguayan Studies, Middle East Studies and Latin American Affairs, located in the United States. Educated at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and Marquette University Les Aspin Center for Government; Tase is the author of “Simultaneous Dictionary in Five Languages: Guarani, English, Italian, Albanian and Spanish” and “El Dr. FEDERICO FRANCO y Su Mandato Presidencial en la Historia del Paraguay.” He’s a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy News. His personal website is www.petertase.com

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