By Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is honoured to host His Excellency Xi Jinping, of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), on his first visit to this region since being elected President of the PRC. This state visit by His Excellency to Trinidad and Tobago is particularly historic and significant because it is the first visit of a President of the People’s Republic of China to the English-speaking Caribbean.
As Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, I attach great importance to the relationship which our country has developed with China since the 1970s. This relationship is one of strategic geopolitical partnership because both China and Trinidad and Tobago understand what it is like to be a developing country struggling to buffer ourselves against the negative aspects of globalization while positioning ourselves to take advantage of the positive fruits of a rapidly globalized world.
We have been unwavering in our support of the “One China Policy” of the People’s Republic of China and have demonstrated that support through our close to 40 years of diplomatic relations with this emerging global power. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has enjoyed over those years a truly excellent bilateral relationship that has been characterized by extensive trade in goods and services, economic and technical cooperation, and High-level visits like this one. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs has worked closely with the Chinese Embassy in Port of Spain to foster that friendly diplomatic relationship between our two countries.
While our population of 1.3 million people is dwarfed by China’s 1.3 billion people, Trinidad and Tobago has certain commodities which the growing middle class in China needs. Our exports to China, while relatively small in the context of our country’s total exports, consists of such items as asphalt, methanol, liquefied natural gas, copper, and scrap metals. In 2011, China’s Vice Premier Wang Qishan unveiled a suite of measures, right here in Trinidad and Tobago, which provided US$6.3 billion in loans to governments of the region. Some of those funds were intended to help Trinidad and Tobago increase its level of exports to China.
Trinidad and Tobago has become the 5th largest import market for Chinese products. From China, we import everything from diesel buses, ferro-silicon manganese, iron/steel tubes and pipes, re-factory bricks, woven fabrics, and carnival costumes. The value of bilateral trade between China and Trinidad and Tobago reached a historic figure of US$ 627 million in 2011. Yes, there is an imbalance in that trade and that gap keeps getting wider. The trade deficit between our two countries was US$158.7 million in 2005 and by 2010 it jumped to US$380.9 million, both in favour of China. We would hope this gap can be reduced as our entrepreneurs in business take up the challenge of the Chinese President to increase exports to China. Trinidad and Tobago’s soon to be established Embassy in Beijing will facilitate the promotion and expansion of our trade in China and further strengthen the ties that exist between our two nations.
During this visit of His Excellency, Xi Jinping, our aim is to set the stage for a deepening of the bilateral relationship between our Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the People’s Republic of China in areas such as trade and investment, energy, infrastructural development, technical cooperation, tourism, and cultural and educational exchanges. President Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” is no different from ours, viz., to achieve national prosperity, the revitalization of the nation, and ensure the happiness of its citizens. As we did close to 40 years ago, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago will collaborate with the Republic of China in pursuit of sustainable development for our people and our nation.
[Office of The Prime Minister]