Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne has acknowledged the appeal of Chinese loans and grants because of their low interest rates and minimal conditions compared to international market options. Despite concerns about high debt burdens, he clarified that, as of September, loans from China represented less than 5.3 per cent of TT's external debt profile.
Browne described the exponential growth in trade between the two nations, which expanded by 85 per cent between 2012 and 2022. However, he acknowledged a trade imbalance in China's favour, while praising the multifaceted and mutually beneficial economic relationships between China and TT.
Browne was the feature speaker at a forum on Caribbean-China economic diplomacy forum.
The forum, which focused on promoting diplomatic activities, took place at the Arthur Lok Jack School of Business in Mt Hope, on Friday.
The minister attributed the success of economic co-operation between the nations to China's economic capacity, which has been marked by expansion since adopting an opening-up and reform policy in 1978. He emphasised the shared enthusiasm to co-operate, citing China's intention to expand two-way trade, encourage Chinese investment in the Caribbean, and provide economic and technical assistance.
Addressing the impact of covid19, he said, "I know the Chinese people and government took note of that symbolic offer of assistance. Given the fact that China was one of the first-hit jurisdictions, China has made very significant donations of medical supplies and equipment. Most importantly, China was among the first countries to make covid19 vaccines, WHO-approved vaccines, available to TT and the rest of the region."
Browne discussed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), emphasising its role in enhancing economic diplomacy.
The Phoenix Park Industrial Estate, a flagship BRI project, was also highlighted as a key development, fostering connectivity and expanding commercial opportunities.
Browne proposed a shift from loans to investments, building resilience in post-pandemic recovery and improving access for niche Caribbean products in the Chinese market. He shared the success of the TT Fine Cocoa Company's exports to Henan Province, exemplifying progress in the trade relationship.
Fang Qiu, Chinese ambassador to TT, expressed gratitude to former foreign affairs minister Winston Dookeran for his contributions to the development and diplomatic ties between the two countries.
“China's economy remains resilient, bringing with it potential and vitality and the fundamentals for long-term growth,” he said.
He added development is needed for humanity to achieve modernisation, saying China's pursuit of modernisation is not solitary but a call for other nations to join hands in this endeavour.
The ambassador also spoke about BRI as a platform for global development initiatives, global security initiatives and global civilisation initiatives. Qiu said these initiatives aim to address development deficits, overcome security challenges, promote mutual learning between civilisations and enhance international co-operation for lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.
He emphasised that the BRI has strengthened infrastructure connectivity in the region, citing the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate as an example of an intelligent and automated logistics platform.
Highlighting the progress in bilateral trade and practical co-operation, Qiu said TT became the first Caribbean country with trade surpassing US$1 billion with China by 2022. Bilateral trade exceeded US$1.31 billion, more than doubling the pre-BRI value.
Former trade minister and CEO of UWI Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business Mariano Browne highlighted China's nominal GDP of US$17.7 trillion and population of 1.4 billion, calling it the second-largest economy globally, accounting for 14.4 per cent of global goods exports in 2022 to foreign investment.
He also addressed the trade tensions between the US and China, noting their impact on global trade.