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Bolivian Ambassador Jorge Balcazar Aranibar, who finishes his assignment and departs for home July 31, believes the seeds have been sown for a stronger relationship with Japan.

“I’m very pleased with what we have achieved in the past three years in not only political and diplomatic relations but also in the area of trade and investment,” Balcazar told The Japan Times July 30. “For Bolivia, it’s very important to attract foreign investment as well as to increase exports,” he said. “And I think we have planted seeds for Japan’s investment in Bolivia.”

He said that during his three-year assignment, many Japanese companies have shown interest in Bolivian industries, especially in the mining sector, and have established offices in hopes for their future investments. Japan’s major trading firms, as well as natural resource developers, organized a tour to Bolivia last year, seeking business chances in the Andean country.

“Through seminars, meetings and visits from both sides, we’ve been able to lead the Japanese business sector to see that Bolivia has potentiality as well as some of the most liberal legislation as far as investment is concerned.” Until a few years ago, Bolivia had exported only single commodities, such as coffee and beans. “But now that its exports have diversified, Bolivia is making inroads in the Japanese market,” he said.

Although Balcazar is happy with the positive reactions and responses from Japanese businesses seeking to invest in Bolivia, he feels the firms have been cautious because of their lack of business experience in the South American country. Meanwhile, Japan has been a major aid donor to Bolivia in recent years. Financial aid from Japan helped improve Bolivia’s infrastructure; highways were built linking the landlocked, mountainous nation to sea ports in neighboring countries.

Despite planned cutbacks in Japan’s official development assistance budget for the next fiscal year, he assumes that it will not substantially affect Bolivia’s economy. “We certainly need support from the international community in the process of political reform that we are going through,” he said. “But it’s also true that we don’t want to be overly dependent on (other nations).”

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