Trade war or not between the US and China, Beijing’s top diplomat here has hailed a “rapid increase” in trade between the world’s most populous nation and one of the tiniest.
In the first six months of this year trade volume between Bridgetown and Beijing reached US$79.8 million, “a rapid increase of 53 per cent, compared to a year ago”, said China’s Ambassador to Barbados Yan Xiusheng as he highlighted a number of local projects with Chinese involvement including the Sam Lord’s Castle project.
He did not state the balance of trade between the two nations or Barbadian value of goods and services sold to Beijing.
The Chinese ambassador has signalled a deepening of relations on trade and development cooperation between Barbados and the People’s Republic of China as he welcomed diplomats to a reception at the Hilton Resort on Wednesday to celebrate the 69th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Xiusheng called for a further “opening up” and people-to-people exchanges between Barbados and China.
But among notable no-shows from the diplomatic corps were the American and Canadian ambassadors.
Without making specific reference to the bitter trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, Xiusheng told the gathering that included the Governor General, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice, that as both China and Barbados belonged to the World Trade Organization (WTO), they should uphold the value of that institution.
“We should encourage opening up and people-to-people exchanges. The convenience brought by China-Barbados visa waiver agreement should be optimized to boost bilateral economic, trade, education, tourism health care and cultural exchanges,” Xiusheng said.
“Both China and Barbados belong to the WTO family, and it remains our obligation to uphold the authority and efficacy of WTO rules, strengthen an open, inclusive, transparent, non-discriminatory and rules-based multilateral trading system, promote global trade and facilitate investment by concrete action,” he said.
Earlier this week, China announced that it would impose tariffs on US goods worth US$60 billion, following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he was hitting US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods with new tariffs.
The US tariffs start at a rate of 10 per cent, before rising to 25 per cent at the end of the year. They come into effect on September 24, and will apply to thousands of Chinese products, ranging from food, sporting gear and industrial machinery parts.
In return, China’s new tariffs will be levied at rates of five per cent or ten per cent, depending on the product, from the same date.
More than 5,000 US goods will be affected, including chemicals, clothes, machinery, meat, furniture, alcoholic beverages and auto parts.
Xiusheng stayed clear of the clash between the world’s two economic powerhouses, but said the upcoming China International Import Expo in early November would form part of a “major policy initiative and commitment” to open up the Chinese market.
As such, the Chinese diplomat said he was looking forward to welcoming a Barbados delegation as the two countries deepen their relationship, “share the development opportunities and expand the Chinese market”.
Xiusheng also declared “high expectations for more exchange between our media houses so as to carry more exciting stories about China-Barbados cooperation”.
Outlining China’s contribution to global economic and infrastructural development, Xiusheng said China had every confidence and capability to sustain a medium to high growth rate and continue to “bring more opportunities to the world economy.
For the first six months of this year China’s economy expanded by more than six per cent.
Xiusheng highlighted a number of areas where China has already assisted Barbados, while pointing out that Beijing and Bridgetown have “always remained bosom friends” and their political trust has been “continuously enhanced”.
He said while he was “blown away” by the existing friendship between the two countries, he wanted to see enhanced dialogue and mutual trust as well as expanded interaction at various levels between the two governments.
Adding that “China has always seen Barbados as a critical partner” in the Caribbean region, Xiusheng invited Barbados to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a development strategy that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries and others.
“Bearing that in mind, we can prioritize in areas such as infrastructure, finance, investment, creative industry, green energy, blue economy and modern agriculture,” he said.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley acknowledged that the two countries shared “a very special relationship”, adding that it was an important one that reflected “what it is to lead with courage and to lead with foresight”.
Bridgetown and Beijing entered diplomatic relations 41 years ago.
“It really reflected that while we say that our approach to our foreign relations was encapsulated in that first speech to the United Nations that we should be friends of all and satellites of none, it is reflected in the commitment irrespective of who constitutes the Government of this nation, that we would act in accordance with our principles and our values, that that is still our situation today is pleasing to me,” said Mottley.
She acknowledged that Barbados had benefited from its relationship with China in a number of areas over the years, while pledging Barbados’ commitment to joining the BRI.
“We are conscious that in spite of the fact of the Belt and Road Initiative is five years old, that Barbados is yet to reach a memorandum of understanding with your government with respect to this initiative. And I look forward to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs concluding such a memorandum of understanding as a matter of urgency so that there can be clarity of purpose as to what else we can achieve between our two governments with respect to this monumental development mission of a global nature,” said Mottley.