China Increases Investment and Trade with CARICOM

China’s Vice Premier, Wang Qishan, attended the 3rd China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum held earlier this week (12-13 September), with the strengthening of business, trade and social ties between CARICOM member countries and China being high on the agenda for discussion. The organization known as the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, represents fifteen Caribbean nations with the main purpose of promoting cooperation among member nations, as well as to pursue economic integration and coordinate foreign policy to the benefit of all concerned. CARICOM member countries are: Antigua and Barbuda; Trinidad and Tobago; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Saint Kitts and Nevis; the Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Dominica; Granada; Guyana; Haiti; Jamaica; Montserrat; Saint Lucia; and Suriname.

Prior to the forum, which was also attended by representatives of close to fifty Chinese business organizations, authorities in Beijing had already entered into multi-million dollar loan agreements with the Bahamas, Barbuda, Antigua and Barbados, with further agreements reached with Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana during the forum. During his opening address at the forum Vice Premier Wang Qishan announced that China is prepared to provide one billion dollars in the form of loans and joint projects, to assist in economic development for CARICOM members. Moreover, China has committed to contributing one million dollars to the Caribbean Development Fund (CDF) to provide both financial and technical assistance to disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors as designated by CARICOM. Beijing has also offered 2,500 skills development and training opportunities for CARICOM countries, as well as offering the opportunity for advanced education in China to thirty selected students to obtain master’s degrees. China will also assist Caribbean countries to set up seismic and tsunami monitoring and warning technology, while assisting in putting disaster management protocols in place.

As the third largest investor in the Caribbean and Latin America, with the US and EU in top spots, China accounts for nine percent of foreign investment in the area, with trade value being estimate at 156 billion dollars per annum. While the demand for Chinese goods continues to grow in the CARICOM region, as is the case in many parts of the world, the region has natural resources that China wants access to, so trade between the various parties is a two-way street. Among the raw materials imported by China are gas and asphalt from Trinidad and Tobago; timber, minerals and bauxite from Guyana, and bauxite in Jamaica. China has also taken advantage of the fact that the Bahamas is geographically close to the United States, and has set up manufacturing and assembly plans for US-destined products.

As global communities become increasingly inter-dependent, CARICOM countries acknowledge that working together with BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – is to their advantage and is likely to open up opportunities in global markets.