Guatemala not asking Taiwan for ‘free money’, does not owe debt like Honduras

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Guatemala is not asking for “free money” from Taiwan and does not owe debt in the same way Honduras does, but is looking for long-term investment and trade, senior Guatemalan financial officials said on Monday.

Guatemala is one of only 13 countries to maintain formal diplomatic ties with Chinese-claimed Taiwan. Honduras abandoned Taipei for Beijing last month after asking for almost $2.5 billion in aid.

Speaking to Reuters at an investment forum in Taipei, Guatemalan Economy Minister Janio Rosales said his country did not have a debt problem with Taiwan but did want more balanced trade, as Guatemala runs a trade deficit with the island.

“We want to have a better balanced trade, so what we are promoting is for more investment from enterprises from Taiwan to Guatemala and to extend cooperation between the two countries. It has been a great alliance,” he said.

Rosales is in Taiwan accompanying Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited Guatemala earlier this month.

Taiwan and China have for years accused each other of buying diplomatic recognition with generous aid packages, but Taipei says it will not use “dollar diplomacy” to compete with Beijing.

Guatemala central bank governor Alvaro Gonzalez Ricci told Reuters it was “not like that” when asked if his country was, like Honduras, seeking billions of dollars from Taiwan.

“I think we can ask Taiwan (for things) but not free money. Maybe they can invest in some bonds of Guatemala for example, and find projects that can last for 25, 30 years, not just donations to certain projects in the short-run,” he said.

China views Taiwan as one of its provinces with no right to the trappings of a state, a view the government in Taipei strongly disputes, and has criticised Giammattei’s trip.

“We heard it in the news, but we are focused on solutions that we need for our country,” Rosales said of China’s comments.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)