The Guardian 9 February, 2005

China looks to the Caribbean

The Caribbean countries have taken an important step forward in terms of their development by signing a framework agreement with China for economic and trade cooperation under what could be described as enviable conditions.

The multilateral agreement was signed at the conclusion of the China-Caribbean cooperation forum that took place in Kingston, Jamaica from February 2-5. It ratifies China's commitment to establish an important world trade alternative in the region.

The agreement promotes development in the following sectors: science and technology, agriculture, fishing, tourism, infrastructural development, human resource training and civil aviation cooperation, all of which will open up new perspectives in the region.

Percival Patterson, prime minister of Jamaica, and Zeng Quinghong, vice president of the People's Republic of China, opened the forum.

The sessions covered a broad agenda, including cooperation among governments and their particular roles, the expansion of trade, as well as investment and co-operation in agriculture, tourism and other sectors like finance, plus the development of natural and human resources.

These are crucial areas for the developing Caribbean nations, particularly given the significance of Chinese participation in tourism, the main source of income in the region, and also in the modernisation of agriculture and the expansion of Caribbean markets.

The Cuban experience, as much for its close links with the Caribbean nations as for its trade partners in China, has been very valuable in the forum's seminars and other meetings.

Vice President Carlos Lage Dávila led the Cuban delegation, which also included Government Minister Ricardo Cabrisas and Berta Delgado Guanache, president of the Chamber of Commerce.

This is the first forum of its kind at the initiative of Chinese authorities in the Caribbean region, and complements the meetings that took place at the end of last year when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile and concluded his tour in Havana.

The Asian giant, known as the great power of the 21st century, has experienced an average GDP of 9 per cent for several years. Its economy is complementary in many aspects to that of the Caribbean countries, particularly in relation to the supply of raw materials, essential for their development. This country has become the engine of the world economy, occupying third place among the principal world powers in trade and investment, only surpassed by the United States and Germany.

Last year, Chinese trade with Latin America rose to US$36.407 billion, an increase of 49.9 per cent compared with 2003. Of that total, US$16.530 billion is represented by Chinese exports and US$20.052 billion by exports from Latin America, a growth of 52.7 per cent and 47.7 per cent respectively.

One of the advantages of the development of relations with the Asian power is that the process is occurring without political conditions, is far-reaching and opens up larger prospects for investment. According to the Chinese Ministry of Trade, Latin America and the Caribbean have become the major beneficiaries of Chinese investments — which reached US$890 million in 2004 — directed towards mining, trade and services, the manufacturing industry and, to a lesser extent, retail sales.

Acknowledgements to Granma International

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