In Beijing, China
Trade Minister Vasant Bharath on Tuesday signed two agreements that will lead to two Chinese construction companies developing and building a port in La Brea and seven industrial parks throughout Trinidad.The operationalisation of the agreements, which are subject to the approval of concessional funding by the Chinese Ex-Im Bank, envisage total investment of about US$750 million.
Bharath was speaking in an exclusive interview with the T&T Guardian at the Grand Hyatt hotel in downtown Beijing following the signing, which took place at the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade building in Beijing.The agreements were signed through two of the Ministry of Trade's executing agencies, InvesTT and eTecK. InvesTT's focus is on bringing new non-energy investment to T&T, while eTecK's renewed mandate is to manage the country's industrial parks.
Bharath said the first phase of the La Brea port was expected to cost about US$500 million, while the seven industrial parks–which the minister described as economic zones–were expected to cost a total of US$250 million.Bharath said the Government was looking for Chinese companies to take equity positions in the La Brea port "as well as possibly operate the port once it is functional."
Speaking about the agreements, Bharath said: "The agreements were applications for loans to China's Ex-Im Bank essentially, through the companies and acknowledging that we have signed contractual arrangements with these organisations."The funding from China's Ex-Im Bank for the port and the industrial parks is part of US$3 billion in loans for projects in the region that resident Chinese President Xi Jinping promised during a meeting in Port-of-Spain last May when he met with ten Caribbean leaders.
T&T has already accessed US$250 million through the government-to-government arrangement with China to build a children's hospital in Couva. Bharath said while the terms of the loan arrangements with China's Ex-Im Bank were yet to be worked out, he said the Government had been told the interest rate on the loans would be in the region of two per cent over a period of 20 years.
Speaking of the loans, the minister said: "Part of it would be 100 per cent loan financing, while the other part would be 85 per cent loan financing with the Government of T&T having to advance 15 per cent."Speaking earlier, eTecK president Kelvin Mahabir said six of the industrial parks would be constructed by China Construction, with China Harbour building one.
The parks, which will provide space for both manufacturing and services, will be located in Reform, Preysal, Dow Village, Connector Road in Chaguanas, Endeavour, Factory Road in Chaguanas and in Frederick Settlement Extension.