US, China state visits renew trade and investment confidence
United States Vice President Joe Biden’s one-day visit to Trinidad and Tobago last week to sign trade agreements and discuss regional security was followed by a three-day visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping to offer substantial economic support to Caribbean development.
The US has had a long history of successful investment and aid relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, but this was the first visit by a Chinese Premier to Trinidad and only China’s second foreign policy visit since President Jinping’s March inauguration. Jinping is on a four-stop tour which began in Latin America where China has been spending billions since 2000; the tour ends in the US.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar greets US Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden’s recent meeting with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders suggests US recognition of the macroeconomic stability of T&T and the region.
The Trade Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) he co-signed with CARICOM chair President Michel Martelly of Haiti reaffirms US influence in the region and should pave the way for more foreign direct investment in the Caribbean.
Biden also confirmed that the US and Trinidad and Tobago recently signed an MOU to construct a regional renewable energy research centre at the University of the West Indies St. Augustine campus.
US Vice President Joe Biden addresses Caricom leaders.
T&T, already the energy hub of the Caribbean because of its hydrocarbon reserves, has dedicated significant public sector resources and formed partnerships to research and fund commercial clean energy projects.
The regional demand for solar energy is expected to grow exponentially over the next five years, and T&T is positioned to take advantage of this.
President Jinping used the time here to talk energy with Trinidad and Tobago. He signed a memorandum of understanding to advance energy collaboration, as well as infrastructural and development initiatives.
Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs Kevin Ramnarine told the media that as a result of the contraction of T&T’s oil and gas business in the US, which is now experiencing a domestic shale boom, the government is looking to do business with China to supply their domestic market.
Trinidad's Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran makes a presentation to a Chinese official while President Jinping and Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar look on.
Another highlight of the Chinese president’s visit was his offer to nine Caribbean countries of some US$3 billion in concessional loans for development and infrastructure upgrades. Trinidad and Tobago has already received a US$950 million concessional loan for construction of a children’s hospital in Couva.
China plans to maintain its already considerable diplomatic and economic influence within the Latin American and Caribbean region. Some highlights include:
President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar unveil the plaque commissioning a children's hospital in Couva, Trinidad.
— Trade between China and Latin America shot past US$200 billion in 2011, making China the region’s second-largest trade partner.
— China has been one of the largest exhibitors at T&T’s annual Trade and Investment Convention within recent years.
— In 2011, China loaned US$6.3 billion dollars to the Caribbean to encourage development, build capacity for disaster preparedness and support clean energy initiatives.
— China continues to collaborate on big tourism and non-tourism related construction projects throughout the Caribbean archipelago, from Cuba and Jamaica to Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela, finding employment for several thousand Chinese construction workers outside of its overstretched employment market at home.
The US and China visits augur well for sustaining FDI levels in 2013, after a recent ECLAC report confirmed FDI reached a record high across Latin America and the Caribbean in 2012.