China is now a major global player and it is important for T&T to continue to build relationships with them, Finance Minister Winston Dookeran said yesterday. "China has now emerged as a very significant player especially in light of the recent tremors and uncertainty in the world economy. China is now being viewed even by the large economies in the world as an economy they we will have to rely on. It is in that context that it is very appropriate and timely that T&T start intensifying its relationship with China," Dookeran said.
He was speaking to the media during a break in the opening ceremony of the third China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Co-operation Forum yesterday at the Hyatt-Regency Hotel in Port-of-Spain.
He pointed out that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar spoke about three areas for T&T and the rest of the Caribbean to develop a relationship with China. "One area has to do with the question of financing of infrastructure. The second area has to do with the export of our products to China and in particular with respect to the growing tourism industry and visitors from China which can be open markets for us in the future," he said. He added that the third area has to do with technology transfer. "Thirdly it will deal with the private sector and forging new links for exploration of their own products and for the transfer of technology," he said. Replying to questions on how China can help Caricom economies out of their present recession, he said the help would come but it would not be now.
"I don't think it would be short term. I think it would be more in the medium term that you would be able to access the Chinese tourism market. But it is important because from what my information is that they are currently having 50 million visitors out of China per year and within five years that could increase to 100 million people because the Chinese middle class is now growing and they are now entering in the world tourism industry. So it's a new place we have to look to," he said. Talking about possible Chinese loans to the Caribbean, he said it would help in poverty reduction. Yesterday, China's Vice Premier, Wang Qishan had promised loans of over US$1 billion on preferential terms to Caribbean countries.
"That proposal is for the Caribbean Development Fund to which T&T also contributes. So it will add to the coffers of the Caribbean Development Fund, the purpose of which is to deal with issues of poverty and issues of social safety net and we welcome the addition to that," he said. Chen Deming, China's Minister of Commerce said China "attaches great importance to trade with the Caribbean." "We want to work with Caribbean countries to avoid any economic crisis. Two-way trade between China and the Caribbean in 2010 amounted to over US$7 billion. Chinese imports from the Caribbean have increased by over 17 per cent in recent years," he said.