In what will be an historic occasion, Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in Trinidad tonight for a two-day visit aimed at deepening ties with TT and the English-speaking Caribbean region. He will be accompanied by First Lady Peng Liyuan, government officials and media personnel.
Shortly after 7 pm, President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran will welcome President Xi at the South Terminal of the Piarco International Airport on the eve of a very hectic schedule of engagements.
Also part of the ceremonial welcome will be Chief Justice Ivor Archie, members of Cabinet and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley.
President Xi’s arrival comes just days after TT hosted US Vice-President Joe Biden and Caricom leaders for multilateral talks.
According to a media release from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), “both China and Trinidad and Tobago will review their existing bilateral relationship and will seek to deepen areas of trade, and investment, energy, technical cooperation, and the exchange of high level visits and cultural exchanges.”
OPM reported that TT and China were interested in strengthening the China-Caribbean cooperation and China-Latin America and Caribbean cooperation.
Persad-Bissessar and President Xi “would seek the expansion of cooperation in international affairs, including the reform of the United Nations system; reform of the international financial and trade architecture, climate change and global security.”
While in TT President Xi will meet with heads of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) who have diplomatic relations with China.
The President’s official engagements begin tomorrow at 9 am with a courtesy call on President Carmona at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port-of-Spain followed by a courtesy call on Persad-Bissessar and bilateral talks. At the end of talks a media briefing will take place.
In the afternoon, President Xi meets with President of the Senate Timothy Hamel-Smith and House Speaker Wade Mark at the Parliament Building, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre. From here he proceeds to the site for the Couva Children’s Hospital, Preysal Main Road, where there will be a plaque unveiling ceremony. Persad-Bissessar and Minister of Housing and the Environment Dr Roodal Moonilal will be in attendance.
President Carmona will host a State Banquet for President Xi at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, St Ann’s.
The Chinese First Lady will have her own engagements tomorrow. After accompanying her husband for the courtesy call on President Carmona, she will attend a concert in her honour at NAPA. A few hours later she will visit the Lady Hochoy Home at Cocorite, then accompany her husband to the State banquet at the Hilton Trinidad. Newsday learnt that persons of Chinese ancestry in TT have been invited to attend.
On Sunday, Madame Peng Liyuan will visit the Yerette, Home of the Hummingbird, Maracas Valley, St Joseph, where several types of hummingbirds could be seen.
President Xi and the First Lady will depart TT around 4 pm.
China’s Ambassador to TT Huang Xingyuan said President Xi’s visit was the first to TT and the English-speaking Caribbean region since diplomatic relations were established between the two countries 39 years ago. He said the visit could be called “a visit across oceans to China’s good friends.” He said it will be a “milestone in our bilateral ties, and a major diplomatic event signifying China’s commitment to developing cooperative relations with the Caribbean countries.” China and TT established diplomatic relations in 1974 and have “wide and deep cooperation in political, economical, cultural and other fields.”
Xingyuan said China has always been “committed to friendly, sincere cooperation, mutual development and resolving difficulties together. China looked forward to TT playing a more important role regionally and internationally” when it takes over the chairmanship of Caricom. In the field of economy and trade, Xingyuan said this has improved continuously and bilateral trade had reached US$627 million in 2011, the highest ever. He said more businessmen were going to China to explore investment opportunities and a growing number of Chinese were coming to TT to establish potential business relations.
At the end of last year TT and China signed a framework agreement for a concessional loan to be used for building the children’s hospital.