Caricom signals interest in China’s One Belt, One Road

Suriname’s Foreign Minister Yldiz Pollack-Beighle (left) greets China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the meeting.   (Caricom photo)

The Caribbean Community (Caricom) has signalled its interest in working with China to ascertain how its goals and priorities can be best linked with existing, new and emerging development initiatives from the East Asian country.

According to a press release from Caricom, Foreign Ministers of the nine Caricom countries which recognise the People’s Republic of China, met with their Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, last Sunday, in the margins of the CELAC-China Forum (CCF) Second Ministerial Meeting, which took place in Santiago, Chile, on 19-22 January, 2018.

Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, Senator Maxine McClean, according to the Caricom release, underscored the importance Caricom attached to the existing Caribbean-China Economic and Trade Coopera-tion Forum, and the Caribbean-China Consultations. The latter was held in May 2016, and is expected to take place again later this year.

The COFCOR Chair noted in the press release that the Community also sees the One Belt, One Road initiative China announced in Santiago, as a “very important cooperation and development mechanism.” She noted that the region looks forward to working with China and ascertaining the best means of linking the opportunities arising from the initiative to the Community’s own development goals and priorities, including, regional transportation, renewable energy, and strengthening our disaster management capacity.“We need the international financial architecture revised urgently to take into consideration the developmental peculiarities and vulnerabilities of SIDS [Small Island Development States],” Senator McClean was quoted as saying in the media release, while adding that the Community’s ability to rebound from the ravages of natural disasters is impaired by the graduation of some of its economies from access to concessionary development finance, due to the use of per capita income as the primary eligibility criterion and non-incorporation of their peculiar vulnerabilities.

“Concessional development funding is essential for the building of economic and climate resilience to serve as the platform for our sustainable development,” McClean was further quoted in the Caricom release as stating, as she urged the Chinese Foreign Minister to relay Caricom’s concerns to his colleagues of the G20 and to the heads of international financial institutions.

According to the Caricom press statement, McClean expressed the Community’s appreciation to China for demonstrating its understanding of Caricom’s unique challenges by generously donating US$30m at the High-Level Pledging Conference which Caricom and the United Nations hosted in New York in November 2017.

The Chinese Foreign Minister in his remarks noted that the achievements of Caribbean-China cooperation is evident in infrastructural developments including roads and hospitals, visa waiver agreements that facilitate increased Chinese tourist arrivals to the Region; conclusion of extradition treaties; an increased number of Confucius Institutes; capacity building for Caricom nationals through training workshops and scholarships; and people-to-people exchanges.

According to the Caricom release, Minister Yi noted the Community’s development challenges outlined, as well as the comments, proposals and cooperation interests put forward. He expressed China’s willingness to support issues such as climate change and disaster relief, and to deepen bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas.

In respect of the latter,  Yi urged the submission of projects, noting that good projects lead to growth and development, the release said. Specific needs should be put forward through the various Chinese Embassies, he said, noting that the Belt and Road Initiative was “a new proposal for economic cooperation that had been warmly received and recognised by over 100 countries and had become a most popular public good.”Presentations by Caricom Foreign Ministers underlined the importance of meaningful and transformative projects for all Caricom Member States. They also highlighted the importance of grant as well as concessional funding to underwrite selected projects.

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