It's nice to be wanted. And to be invited. That's why Paraguay sent a seven-member delegation to Oklahoma this week, the largest delegation that country has ever sent out in search of expanded trade.
The Paraguans, who arrived Wednesday morning, are in Oklahoma first of all for a one-day business and cultural exchange conference at St. Gregory's College in Shawnee. But while here, they also will visit with state political, business and agriculture leaders to discuss trade between Oklahoma and Paraguay.
"We came here because we were invited," said Francisco R. Gutierrez Campos, director of Proparaguay in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. "There are a lot of similarities between Oklahoma and our country and we would like to get to know the people of Oklahoma and do more trade." Similarities are that both are about the same size with the same population, both are landlocked in the middle of their respective continents, both rely on agriculture and food processing for trade and both have inland ports on waterways. "When we go into a new market, we study the size of the market and look at how we want to do business there," Gutierrez said. "Oklahoma is better than, say New York City, because there they wouldn't pay any attention to us. Our deals are much smaller. "We are bordered by two big countries, Argentina and Brazil, and people don't take us as seriously as they do those two countries." During this visit, which they hope will be broadened into major cultural and business dialogue, they plan to discuss ways that business can be conducted in Paraguay. "It's easy to do business there, there are a lot of opportunities and there's enough for everybody," Gutierrez said. Paraguay needs foreign investment, primarily in infrastructure and technology and also is looking for consultants and construction companies to help with a massive building program. One of the drawing cards is low-cost electricity, which is now being sold to Brazil at a lower-than-average rate. "We have two hydroelectric dams and use only 2 percent of our capacity," Gutierrez said. "That's why we are selling to Brazil." This is the third delegation from South America to visit Oklahoma in the past few months. Groups from Chile and Argentina also have been here, touting agriculture and how Oklahoma and their countries could mutually benefit. Because of the differences in the seasons, harvests come at different times of year, which could keep food processing facilities going year around, those groups said. "It would be better in Paraguay because we have better weather," said Peter Jones, director Centro Cultural Paraguayo Americano, an organization that works to promote academic, economic and cultural exchange programs and promotes trade between the United States and Paraguay. …