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PM opens new T&T embassy in China
SHANGHAI—Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday declared T&T’s new embassy in Beijing formally open, ending years of preparation and marking a new phase in the country’s bilateral relationship with the world’s second largest economy. Addressing the 200-strong audience at a ceremony held outside the embassy and with the temperature officially dipping below freezing, the Prime Minister thanked all those who contributed to making the establishment of the mission a reality “in our first term of office.”
She added: “And I do say first term because I do intend to go for a second term with other projects.” Persad-Bissessar said: “We see China as a trusted partner who comes to the table, like us, with goodwill focused on mutual benefit and on enhancing our relationship.” In her speech, the Prime Minister underscored the contribution that Chinese construction companies have made to T&T.
She noted that the two academies of the performing arts in Port-of-Spain and San Fernando and of the official residence and diplomatic centre had been constructed by Shanghai Construction Company. “The same company is currently in the process of constructing six large multi-purpose sporting facilities. Chinese firms are currently involved in constructing the UWI South Campus as well as the Children’s Hospital project in Couva,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar opened the embassy on the third day of a five-day visit to China in which the T&T delegation signed agreements for about US$750 million in new construction for Chinese companies, which have been given the mandate to build the new port at La Brea as well as seven new industrial parks.
During talks on Tuesday with China’s premier, the T&T Government signed Memoranda of Understanding in air services, energy and energy-related matters, co-operation in sport as well as a protocol on health and services. She also pointed out that a Chinese company acquired a ten per cent stake in Atlantic LNG in 2012 and that a consortium from China owns about 25 per cent of blocks 2 (a) and 3 (c), which are operated by BHP Billiton.
The Prime Minister left Beijing for Shanghai late Wednesday after visiting the Agricultural University of China in the capital. In Shanghai, she is due to address an investment forum organised by InvesTT—the agency within the Ministry of Trade whose mandate is to generate foreign investment in the non-energy sectors—for businessmen in China’s largest city.
Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran said there were many occasions when his predecessor, Suruj Rambachan, had to answer the question “when will it be done,” referring to the opening of the embassy. He said the Prime Minister insisted from day one that the opening of the embassy was a major step for the country. “I am pleased to say to you Prime Minister that it was left to me to carry on the work of my predecessor...signed, sealed and delivered,” said Dookeran.
T&T’s new ambassador in Beijing, Chandradath Singh, described the business delegation accompanying the official visit as the “true partners of economic development.” He said while the embassy could help to create the right atmosphere for doing business, “it is you the businessmen, through your investment and collaboration with your Chinese counterparts that will make the difference between the commercial relations of the two countries.”
China’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Xie Hangsheng, compared the opening of the embassy to the sowing of a seed of friendship in early spring. Xie said: “I am sure that with efforts from both sides, this seed of friendship will bear bountiful fruit. The Chinese side is ready to provide every facilitation and assistance in the work discharged by the embassy.”
The opening attracted the entire corps of Caribbean diplomats posted in Beijing, including the ambassadors of Barbados, Suriname, Guyana and Grenada along with officials from the embassies of Jamaica and The Bahamas. Several diplomats from other countries also attended the opening as well as scores of Chinese businessmen and T&T nationals living or studying in China along with a delegation of over 30 businessmen under the umbrella of InvesTT.