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The Daily Oklahoman

February 7, 1997
Page: 13

Paraguay Traders Shop Oklahoma
Author: Jon Denton; Staff Writer

Article Text:

What Francisco Gutierrez wants is somebody else to trade with his country, Paraguay, besides the Europeans.

Oklahomans are more like what he has in mind.

Not that he has anything against Europe, for 450 years his country's No. 1 trade partner, said Gutierrez, director of the Paraguay Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

He's looking for place that is landlocked but has a port city on a navigable river, is agriculture-based, is business friendly and has a population that is not too big or too small.

Oklahoma is almost dead center in the United States. It is small among states. It is known for its wheat and beef. What's more, it has the Port of Catoosa on the Arkansas River.

"Europeans have profited from trade relations and businesses while North Americans have missed out on opportunities. That's true even though (U.S.) prices are better and the quality of goods is higher," Gutierrez said after landing at Will Roger World Airport.

He leads a seven-member trade delegation, the first of its kind to visit the United States, he said. They were guest speakers at a "Focus on Paraguay" seminar Thursday at St. Gregory's College in Shawnee.

They also are taking a few days to shop around.

Stops in Norman, Oklahoma City and Stillwater will give them a good idea of the kinds of goods they can buy here, Gutierrez said. On their list is farm equipment, computers, video players, windmills, solar panels, cattle and livestock.

On Paraguay's export side, the democracy has low-cost goods and services to offer Oklahoma, he said. A subtropical climate produces fruits and vegetables North Americans enjoy.

"Several American companies have grown to multimillion per year (sales) by buying, processing and marketing high-quality Paraguayan products," he said. "There is no reason that Oklahoma businesses cannot do the same."

He encourages Oklahoma health care providers to consider establishing managed health care programs in South American hospitals. At present, many South Americans travel to the United States for medical care.

"Instead of going to Miami or Houston as they do now, Oklahoma hospitals and outpatient facilities could be a viable option," Gutierrez said.

The goal of his first visit is to get to know Oklahoma, he said. Assisting in that effort is Susan Smith Nash, a humanities professor and director of the Learning Enhancement Achieves Personal Success program at St. Gregory's College.

All of South America is moving toward a common market, Gutierrez said. In a few years, he predicts, 380 million people will share a common economic interest.

As for Oklahoma, the state is interesting because of its small size.

"It's easier to talk with regions, states or countries where we have some similarity ... Not because Oklahoma is not as important as New York City - it's because of the type of business that we have developed.

"Agriculture is the our main product. We also grow soybeans and cattle and we raise horses."

Copyright 1997 Oklahoma Publishing Company
Record Number: OKC1975177

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