Good afternoon .. and welcome.
Today has been an historic day for us in Trinidad and Tobago since it marks the first time we have had the honour of hosting a President of the People’s Republic of China on a state visit.
Your Excellency Xi Jinping … once again we welcome you and your distinguished delegation… on behalf of the people and Government of Trinidad and Tobago. We are honoured that you are here.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the media our connection with the People’s Republic of China is centuries old … with the most direct connection beginning more than 200 years ago when the first Chinese indentured labourers arrived in what was at that time the British colony of Trinidad.
Our two countries established diplomatic relations in 1974 and I am pleased to report that we will be establishing our first embassy in China this year.
We are also considering the establishment of a Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Institute, which would be attached to the Diplomatic Mission in Beijing.
This centre would promote Trinidad and Tobago’s creative industries through cultural exchanges, training seminars and cultural exhibitions in China. The Centre could also feature highly in Trinidad and Tobago’s public diplomacy initiatives in Asia.
During our discussions we also suggested that China and Trinidad and Tobago could co-host an annual Caribbean Music Festival in Beijing, which could become a signature event for promoting Asian/Caribbean Cultural Exchanges.
We will continue to facilitate high level delegations and cultural exchanges as we build on our economic and diplomatic relations. In that context I wish to let you know that I will be making an official visit to China in November this year by which time our embassy would be fully operational.
As you know the People’s Republic is assisting us with some major infrastructure projects including the George Bovell III Aquatic Centre, a cycling velodrome, a tennis centre, three multi-purpose sporting facilities, the South campus of the University of the West Indies and Children‘s Hospital Project in Couva. I invite you to join us later for a site visit.
Today we touched on a number of important areas in our bilateral discussions including trade and investment, energy, and mutual cooperation in regional and international affairs. We also signed a number of key Memoranda of Understanding.
1) Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement for 50 million RMB Yuan for social development project
2) Letters of exchange for the acquisition of a set of Linear Accelerator Xray, Scanning and Detection Scanning System
3) MOU for the establishment of the Confucius Institute for language training at UWI, St. Augustine
With respect to ENERGY …
We noted China’s increased involvement in our energy sector with the entry of Sinopec Overseas Oil and Gas Limited (SOOGL) into the local petroleum sector and in 2011 the acquisition of a 10 per cent stake in Trinidad based natural gas producer, Atlantic LNG, by the China Investment Corporation, a Chinese Government special purpose company.
The recent agreement signed in 2011 between Lake Asphalt Trinidad and Tobago Ltd and the China Railway Construction Caribbean Company for the supply of asphalt to the Chinese market for a three-year period is of benefit to our two countries.
My Government is actively seeking to penetrate new markets regionally and internationally, and we see China as a key business partner and a potential new market for our energy products. Alternative and renewable energy research and development is also high on our developmental agenda and we welcomed the involvement of the Chinese in this area.
As you know we have been trying to diversify our economy and have identified six business clusters for the diversification of our local economy – the maritime industry, the energy industry, food sustainability, creative industries, tourism and financial services.
We discussed how we might cooperate with Chinese firms with regard to the transfer of technical expertise in our efforts to develop the maritime industry in Trinidad and Tobago. Our embassy in China would be of great assistance in developing these business contacts.
We raised the possibility of developing with China a competitive shipbuilding and repair industry locally.
Our conversations included a number of health care projects including the construction of a Children’s Hospital in Couva, a hospital in Arima and China’s agreement to provide 100 health care professionals to the Caribbean, including Trinidad and Tobago.
We understand the value of technical cooperation and discussed how we might continue to benefit from technical cooperation ventures with China. Some of the key areas we have identified for technical cooperation are:
- Infrastructural Development
- Agriculture and Food Security
- Information and Communication Technology
- National Security
Thank you all.
[Office of The Prime Minister]