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Tulsa World

January 31, 1997
Edition: FINAL HOME EDITION
Section: BUSINESS
Page: E1


Habla Trade? Ties With Paraguay Focus of Conference
Author: Shaun Schafer

Article Text:

Oklahoma-Paraguay doesn't sound like the most natural partnership, but a connection between the two could find a market for the state's cattle, food processing and even the ostriches left over from the collapse of the speculative boom in the birds.

Both are landlocked but served by inland ports. Both are in the southern half of their continents and border larger markets -- Texas and Brazil. Both traditionally have had a big stake in the cattle industry.

In fact, Oklahoma and Paraguay are close enough that the first-ever trade initiative between them is scheduled to be launched Feb. 6 at St. Gregory's College in Shawnee.

Susan Smith Nash, who helped organize the free event, said the critical step is getting Oklahomans to look into ventures involving the South American country.

"We're looking for people involved in cattle and ranching, raising horses and others who may be doing or looking to do business in South America," she said. "We're also looking for ostrich breeders. A lot of them really invested and are wondering what they can do for a market."

Contrary to attempts to develop a market for the meat of the big birds, the bigger market may be in ostrich hides, Nash said. While the United States has only two large commercial tanneries, there are dozens in Paraguay.

"They could produce high-quality, low-cost hides that could be made into other products" such as wallets, belts, boots, and the like, she said.

Next week's conference stems from overtures Nash made last year on behalf of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture to Paraguay's Ministry of Agriculture while she visited Asuncion, the capital.

Although the 1:30 p.m. conference is designed as a relatively informal event, emphasizing information exchange and first contacts, Nash said a number of Paraguayan business and government officials plan to attend.

Among them are Antonio Britez, president of the Association of Paraguayan Professionals Graduated in the United States; Julia Maciel, APPG coordinator; Peter Jones, director of Centro Cultural Paraguayo-Americano; Benito Bordon, chief of protocol for the National Administration of Ports and Navigation; Ronaldo Dietze, director of planning for the Ministry of Agriculture; and Blanca de Insauralde, chief information officer of the Ministry of Commerce's business promotion program Proparaguay.

Paraguay's river port at Asuncion is the hub of a trading wheel with spokes in Uruguay, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil, Nash said.

Paraguay also expects to benefit from MECROSUR -- the South American version of the North American Free Trade Agreement -- that recently took effect.

Along with information on MECROSUR and directories of Paraguayan businesses and contact names, Nash said there also will be information on the South American market for reconditioned farming and food processing equipment. There is a special interest for equipment used in the production of cotton, sorghum, maize and other commodities, she said.

"I think that the way people could make the most valuable contribution is in a cooperative way," Nash said. "You could get an exclusive arrangement with a low-cost provider."

For example, an Oklahoma company could sell used food processing equipment to a Paraguayan concern. Then, Paraguayans could process fruit and vegetables for export back to Oklahoma for distribution.

The conference, sponsored by St. Gregory's Learning Enhancement Achieves Personal Success program and the Management Development Center, is free and open to the public.

Reservations can be made by calling (405) 878-5141 or sending a fax to (405) 878-5198

Copyright 1997 Tulsa World. World Publishing Co.
Record Number: TUL603048

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