Canada and Paraguay established diplomatic relations in 1961 when Canada’s first Ambassador was accredited to Paraguay. The Embassy of Canada in Buenos Aires is accredited to Paraguay, and Canada maintains an Honorary Consulate in Asunción. A Visa Application Centre was opened in September 2011, in order to facilitate visa applications for residents in Paraguay through the Embassy in Buenos Aires. Paraguay is represented in Canada by an Embassy in Ottawa and has appointed Honorary Consulates in Calgary, Montréal, Vancouver and Winnipeg. While Canadians travelling to Paraguay still require a visa to enter the country, procedures were simplified in November 2012 to allow for purchase of visa upon arrival for Canadians arriving at Silvio Pettirossi International Airport, the country’s main entry point.
Canada’s engagement in the Americas is a foreign policy priority with the vision of a more prosperous, secure and democratic hemisphere. Canada works with partners towards three goals: increasing economic opportunity, strengthening security and institutions and fostering lasting relations. Spanning all three goals, Canada and Paraguay enjoy close bilateral relations in areas of common interest such as human rights and effective multilateralism within the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS). Both countries have been engaged in reconstruction and peacekeeping efforts in Haiti, with Paraguay contributing approximately 170 troops to the MINUSTAH mission, including a technical engineering unit.
Paraguay is an associate member of Canada’s Military Training Cooperation program, through which Canada makes military training available to partner countries thus enhancing defence relations between our nations. Canada also provided financial support to the Pearson Centre, which implemented the Latin American Peacekeeping Partnership(LAPP). The objective of the LAPP was to work with selected Latin American countries (including Paraguay) to increase their capacity to contribute to the planning, management and conduct of multinational and multidimensional peace operations in line with international standards and best practices. Project activities focused on peacekeeping training centres and police peacekeeping services, with gender as a cross cutting theme. Events held in Asunción include a June 2011 workshop on the Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Operations, and a February 2013 workshop on Military-Police cooperation in Peace Operations.
Bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and Paraguay totalled approximately $24.9 million in 2012, including $15 million in Canadian exports and $9.9 million in imports from Paraguay. These figures reflect a modest involvement of Canadian companies in such sectors as mining, infrastructure, energy and clean technologies. There is also significant interest in a potential investment by Rio Tinto Alcan in a major aluminum smelter in Paraguay, which would stimulate economic development and possibly enable new areas for engagement by Canadian private sector. For more information, please visit the webpage of the Trade Commissioner Service.
The active bilateral relationship between Canada and Paraguay has been highlighted in recent years by visits to Paraguay of the Minister of International Trade, Ed Fast (June 2011), Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (May 2011), then-Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas) Peter Kent (May 2010). High-level Paraguayan visitors to Canada have included then-Vice-President and current President Federico Franco (October 2010), then Minister of Foreign Affairs Héctor Lacognata (September 2010) and Secretary of the Environment, Oscar Rivas (September 2010).
An important people-to-people link is the community of approximately 15,200 Paraguayan Mennonites of Canadian origin, 9,000 of whom maintain Canadian citizenship. In fact, the majority of Canadian visitors to Paraguay have some connection to the Mennonite community.
Development assistance for Paraguay is provided through multilateral programs and through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), which is managed by the Embassy of Canada to Argentina and Paraguay. Projects supported by the CFLI focus on advancing democracy, creating opportunities for children and youth, stimulating sustainable economic growth, ensuring security and stability and increasing food security. In 2012-2013, Canada provided support to seventeen projects in Paraguay, amounting to over CAD $311,000 in funding.
Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is also active in Paraguay. Recent projects supported by the IDRC include a study into the impact on rural development and prosperity of the “One Laptop per Child” program and an initiative to help inform and advocate pre-election debate leading up to the April 2013 election. The IDRC manages the Think Tank Initiative, a multi-donors initiative which provides long-term funding and technical support to 28 think tanks in Latin America and South Asia, allowing them to strengthen their roles as influential players in national policymaking. Among the 28 are two Paraguayan institutions, El Centro de Análisis y Difusión de la Economía Paraguaya (CADEP) and the Instituto Desarrollo (ID).
The Centro Paraguayo de Estudios Canadienses (CPEC), a Canadianist association created in 2005, is developing an extensive programme which includes a special ongoing feature, Education to Strengthen Democracy. This group sustains links with universities, NGOs and government and has facilitated the visits to Paraguay of important Canadian and regional experts to discuss Canadian priorities; promote educational exchanges and fellowships and organize Canada-branding events. One of CPEC’s main goals is to further the concept of open governance based on Canada’s experiences.
In 2011, Canada hosted 34 Paraguayan students. Canadian universities maintain active agreements with institutions in Paraguay covering a wide range of disciplines and including both faculty and student exchanges.
In March 2011, on the occasion of Paraguay’s bicentennial and the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations, the Canadian Embassy hosted “Canada Connections Week” in Asunción.