PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — China on Sunday announced a US$3 billion concessionary facility for eight Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries as President Xi Jingping ended a three-day state visit to Trinidad and Tobago.
The Chinese leader met with leaders of Caricom countries which have diplomatic relations with Beijing rather than Taiwan — that China regards as a renegade province — in bilateral discussions and later at a luncheon.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar told reporters that President Xi announced at the luncheon “that he will be contributing three billion US dollars in concessional financing for the Caricom region.
“We did thank him for that very generous gesture. The three billion dollars are for infrastructure projects…in the region,” she said.
“We really welcomed that generosity which is a manifestation of the friendship we share and our ties as nations together,” she said, adding she had no problem with the funds being made available to Caricom countries that support the “One China” policy.
China’s Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Hung Caio Ming said, “I believe that this type of concessional loan is something that will be increased in …the future”.
He said he was confident that the relationship between China and the Caribbean would continue “for a very long time… and this mutual friendship is beneficial to both sides.
“So we are committed to further development of this friendship,” he said, adding that “the people in China will never forget their old friends, especially those friends who supported us at the crucial moments of history”.
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the facility comes at a time when “the Caribbean and indeed the world is challenged with all sorts of economic and fiscal issues.
“It is very good news for the Caribbean people that a friend like China could come forward and make such an offer during this time. It is certainly good news for many governments and I have no doubt all of us will certainly seek to take advantage of this facility in the quickest possible time,” Skerrit said.
Skerrit said that the region needs investments to deal with unemployment and alleviate poverty, adding “the fact remains there are not many friends out there who are coming forward and making such offers and gestures towards the Caribbean.
“So I believe it was a very constructive engagement, it signals to us in the Caribbean that China has been taking us seriously, that they have responded to the long-standing solidarity which we have expressed to them over an extended period of time, particularly with regards to the One China policy and also the peaceful reunification of the whole of China.
“All in all, I think it was a very beneficial and constructive visit to the Caribbean by President Xi and we are looking forward to further strengthening and deepening the relations between China and the Caribbean,” said the Dominican leader.
Prior to his arrival here, Beijing said that President Xi’s visit, the first to the Caribbean “is also (a) very important event for the host country and its other English-speaking Caricom member-states, all of which are dwarfed in size, population and economy by their comparatively colossal Latin American neighbours”.
Apart from Trinidad and Tobago, President Xi will be visiting Costa Rica and Mexico and will meet with President Barack Obama in Washington during his two-day visit to the United States, June 7-8.
China said that through the bilateral meetings it is hoping to promote cooperation in various areas and inject new vitality to the friendship between the countries.
The visit follows that of the United States Vice-President Joe Biden earlier last week. Biden described his discussions with Caricom leaders as “frank and cordial” and pledged Washington’s assistance on a wide range of issues affecting the socio-economic development of the 15-member regional grouping.
Skerrit, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions that President Xi’s visit was intended to counteract the United States’ influence in the region, adding, “You will always have people who will say this (but) at the end of the China has demonstrated seriously it is not only talking but has manifested its seriousness in a practical sense.
“There are others who will stay on the sidelines and provide rhetoric. Now the Bible says man shall not live by bread alone and I daresay a country can’t live by rhetoric alone. One has to demonstrate some practical sense and I don’t believe it is a game of playing one against the other.”