US-based T&T songstress Charmaine Forde held nothing back when she made a resounding return to the local stage at Kaiso Blues Café last Sunday with We Kinda Jazz.
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Easier visa process for Chinese nationals
Chinese nationals travelling to T&T for the first time may not require a visa, and it is hoped there will be reciprocity for T&T nationals travelling to China. This hope was expressed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as she delivered the feature address at the 40th anniversary celebration of bilateral relations between T&T and the People’s Republic of China at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s Port-of-Spain, on Sunday.
Persad-Bissessar hosted a special dinner in honour of the two countries’ long-standing and developing relationship. She said the Chinese community had invested much in T&T in the areas of culture, economics, and the arts, to name a few, since its members first arrived on the country’s shores almost 208 years ago.
Earlier this year, the Government opened a T&T Embassy in Beijing, which went into full operation on March 15, making it easier for Chinese nationals to obtain visas. Before that, she said, they would have had to go through the UK to obtain it. “When I visited China last year, there was a great difficulty with the Chinese getting visas to come to Trinidad. That is no more since we have opened the embassy,” said Persad-Bissessar.
Speaking directly to both Chinese Ambassador to T&T Huang Xingyuan and Deputy Minister, Overseas Chinese Affairs, He Yafei, who were at the celebration, she added: “We are even looking at the possibility of visa-free travel of Chinese nationals to T&T and we hope that there would be reciprocity in that regard.”
She highlighted that the country would not be the first to allow it, as the Government of T&T’s Caricom neighbour Jamaica in February approved a new regime that would allow Chinese nationals to visit Jamaica as tourists for up to 30 days without a visa.
Last year, for the first time in history, China’s President Xi Jinping made a state visit to T&T, during which he announced, at a Caricom meeting hosted by Persad-Bissessar, that the Chinese Government would offer US$3 billion in concessionary loans to Caribbean countries as it sought to build and strengthen strategic partnerships with the Caribbean region.
Persad-Bissessar said she subsequently visited China in February on a special invitation by Premier of the State Council, Li Keqiang. As a result of the many meetings and discussions with Li Keqiang, the Chinese President’s visit to T&T and the opening of the embassy, a stronger bond between the nations had been championed.
“They have all significantly advanced not only both countries’ diplomatic relations, but also trade and economic co-operation between the Government of T&T and the Government of China, to the mutual benefit of all citizens,” she said.
More Chinese employment
The country might also soon see a large influx of Chinese nationals among the workforce as the Government seeks to hire more skilled workers and fill vacancies at public medical centres.
Persad-Bissessar said the country was lacking in skilled labour and the public hospitals and health facilities were suffering from a shortage of nurses and doctors. Responding to critics who accuse the Government of taking bread out of the mouth of T&T nationals by employing Chinese labour, she said, “Let us not look at it as such, but rather it is about meeting the needs of our citizens and the development of T&T with the help of other developing nations.”
She said three Chinese companies had already undertaken major jobs including the building of the National Cycling Velodrome, the National Tennis Centre and three multi-purpose sporting facilities, the children’s hospital in Couva and the south campus of the University of T&T (UTT), as well as the ongoing construction of the George Bovell III Aquatic Centre, in Couva.
The 40th anniversary celebration begins on June 30 with:
• Chinese food festival
• Bilateral relations seminar co-hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of China
• Chinese language workshop in collaboration with the Centre for Language Learning at UWI, St Augustine.
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