Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has described as “very fruitful” the discussions he had last Sunday with President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, in Port-of- Spain.
Xi was on an official visit to Trinidad and Tobago over the weekend, where he held bilateral meetings with the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community countries which have diplomatic relations with China. He later met with Stuart and his delegation separately, where subjects discussed included rebalancing Barbados’ growing trade deficit with China, marketing the Caribbean as a tourist destination in China, and future cooperation between the two countries.
Commenting on the talks, Stuart said: “The president and I discussed the finalisation of an air services agreement between China and Barbados… He acknowledged that Chinese are travelling much more now than at any other time in the country’s history and are much more interested in visiting places like the Caribbean.
“It is, therefore, important that any stumbling blocks in their way at this time should be removed with as much haste as possible.
“So, even though the issue of an air services agreement has been on the agenda for some time, we both expressed the view that the time had come when we had to get it behind us, rather than keep it in front of us.”
He stated that they also looked at advertising Barbados as a tourist destination in Mandarin so the Chinese were sensitised to the reality that there “is a paradise in the Caribbean”.
Stuart disclosed that Barbados had secured a grant in the sum of 50 million RMBs to be used by Government for important projects. He added that the establishment of a Confucius School at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, was still being pursued by both Governments and that he and the president also discussed it.
“And, we also talked about the rebalancing of the trading relationship between the two countries. Of course, we cannot hope ever to have an equitable trade balance with China in the sense in which we export as much to China as they are able to export to us.
“But, what we agreed on was that the Chinese market should become more easily accessible to Barbadian manufacturers and, therefore, a list of the goods that Barbados produces and that could conceivably be exported to China has been compiled and is to be shared with the Chinese so we can work out the necessary trading arrangements,” Stuart revealed.
China has also offered the region US $3 billion in aid for its infrastructure and for concessional financing. Stuart said the Heads of Government were pleased they would receive an injection into the regional economies.
Barbados established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China on May 30, 1977, and the relationship has deepened over the years. Both countries have concluded an extensive treaty network, including the signing of a Cultural Agreement, an Economic and Technical Co-operation Agreement and a Double Taxation Agreement.