Guatemala seeking trade ties with China

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Guatemala is considering establishing formal trade relations with China while maintaining existing ties with Taiwan according to statements from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Ramiro Mart铆nez. Despite being one of Taiwan’s few remaining allies, Guatemalan president Bernardo Ar茅valo has expressed the need to acknowledge China’s weight and power on the global stage. Martinez emphasized that this approach is not an ambush against Taiwan or the United States.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin urged the Guatemalan government to make “a correct decision in line with the fundamental and long-term interests of the Guatemalan state and people.” Wang stressed that the fundamental premise for cooperation with China is the recognition of the One China policy, emphasizing that 183 nations have already established diplomatic relations with Beijing.

This potential shift in trade relations comes amid growing tension between China and Taiwan, with recent military movements by China towards Taiwan, raising concerns about the possibility of U.S. military intervention in the event of a conflict.

Guatemalan president Ar茅valo, who took office in January, intends to address corruption and establish relations with China. Despite the consideration of formal trade relations with China, Taiwan has reaffirmed its commitment to deepening cooperation with Guatemala. 

In terms of trade figures, as of November 2023, Guatemala exported $107 million to Taiwan and imported $3.7 billion from China. The possibility of establishing an “office of commercial interests” to find a Chinese market for Guatemalan products has been mentioned as part of this initiative.

However, experts hold divided opinions: Miguel Guti茅rrez, a macroeconomist at the Foundation for Economic Development, considers this decision “smart,” highlighting the business opportunity with the world’s largest economy. On the other hand, independent analyst Roberto Wagner points out political and economic implications, warning of possible geopolitical consequences and advocating for more effective utilization of existing bilateral relations, such as those with Taiwan.

In response to these developments, U.S. Senator Jim Risch criticized Guatemala’s interest in establishing trade links with China, describing it as “a significant setback for human rights.” In a post on X, Risch suggested that the Biden administration urge president Ar茅valo to stand by democratic allies.

In response to the news, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed its commitment to Guatemala, while China emphasized the One China policy as the basis for cooperation. The current situation highlights the complexity of international relations in the region and its impact on geopolitical balance.