JAKARTADAILY.ID - Taiwan has expressed its support for Guatemala by paying a lobbying contract to promote the nation with U.S. officials, Reuters reported on Monday.
The contract is worth $900,000 and signed by Guatemala's ambassador in the U.S., Alfonso Quinonez, with Ballard Partners, a firm headed by Brian Ballard, the backer of former U.S. President Donald Trump. With the contract, the firm will provide Guatemala consultation and advocacy "related to the U.S. government."
The lobbying is part of existing Taiwan-Guatemala bilateral cooperation that is also in line with U.S regulations, and it will help the country to focus on strategic communication, investor outreach, and promoting tourism.
"Guatemala thanks Taiwan for the support that will allow us to enhance the country's position in the United States," said the Guatemalan government in a statement.
The cooperation is especially important as Taipei seeks to get closer with its allies, amid a dispute with China and claims the territory as its own with no right to state-to-state relations. Guatemala is one of the 13 small countries that are still not tied with Beijing.
At the same time, Beijing has also been seeking to tighten ties with Taipei's remaining diplomatic allies, especially Central American and Caribbean countries. This move does not only alarm Taipei but also its close ally, Washington.
It also coincides with the current tension between the Guatemalan government and the U.S., as earlier this month the U.S. State Department criticized corruption in the Central American country.
However, spokesman Ned Price does not agree with the lobbying contract. As it is considered "against an internationally recognized independent judge weakens a vital pillar of Guatemala’s democracy and judicial system." Although it isn't illegal, according to an attorney for Covington & Burling, such action is "unusual" for one government to pay fees for lobbying of another country.
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