Guatemala, a traditional ally of Taiwan, seeks ties with China

Guatemala is looking to balance its diplomatic and trade relations with both China and Taiwan.

President of Guatemala, Bernardo Arévalo.
President of Guatemala, Bernardo Arévalo.

The foreign minister of Guatemala, Carlos Ramiro Martínez, said on Monday that the country is exploring the possibility of establishing formal trade relations with China, while keeping its existing ties with Taiwan, as he spoke to Reuters in an interview.

Guatemala is one of the few allies of Taiwan left, as more countries choose to align with China, the world’s second largest economy, which considers Taiwan as part of its territory.

Martínez said that Guatemala will continue to work with Taiwan as before, but also acknowledged that China’s strength and influence cannot be overlooked, emphasizing that this was the view of President Bernardo Arevalo, who took office in mid-January with a pledge to end corruption and build relations with China.

He also remarked that Guatemala is interested in approaching China to try and develop a trade relationship, which could take the form of an “office of trade interests” that would help promote Guatemalan products in the Chinese market.

Martínez said that this was not a secret move against Taiwan or the United States, and that Guatemala was making it public.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry expressed that it will continue to deepen exchanges and cooperation with Guatemala’s Arevalo and his new government, based on their common values of democracy and freedom.

China has been expanding its economic presence in Latin America in recent years, where countries have traditionally had closer ties with the United States. Many Central American countries have switched their allegiance from Taiwan to China in recent years.

The Chinese foreign ministry responded to Martinez’s comments by saying that the “one China” principle is “the fundamental premise and political basis for China’s cooperation with all countries, including Guatemala”.

It expressed its hope that Guatemala’s new government will make a correct decision as soon as possible that is in the best interest of the Guatemalan people and nation, following the historical and contemporary trend, the spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, Wang Wenbin, said to reporters on Tuesday.

Taiwan, on the other hand, has indicated that it does not want to engage in “checkbook diplomacy” with China, which is richer than Taiwan.

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