Trinidad's Prime Minister heads to China for trade and investment talks

Posted by Investt

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, February 20, 2014: Celebrating 40 years of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar will lead a delegation of government officials and business executives on a historic state visit to the country from Feb. 24-28, a move widely aimed at strengthening ties and promoting trade and investment.

trinidad PM embarking on China trip promoting FDI

It is the first official visit by a Trinidad PM to China in almost 30 years and coincides with China’s recent push for greater influence in the Caribbean.

More than mere reciprocation for President Xi Jinping’s visit to Port-of-Spain last May — the first such visit by a Chinese President to the English-speaking Caribbean during which he pledged US$3 billion in loans for development projects within the Caribbean Community (Caricom) — Persad-Bissessar has said she is intent on boosting cooperation with China on energy, food security and trade.

The Chinese presence in Trinidad and Tobago goes back centuries. Trade between both countries reached a high of US$627 million in 2011, falling to $450 million in 2012. The Prime Minister wants to reduce the trade deficit that has favoured China over the years through increased exports. She also has plans for ramping up foreign direct investment.

National investment promotion agency InvesTT is coordinating several business meetings during the visit to discuss opportunities in key sectors including clean tech, fashion, downstream energy, tourismmanufacturingagribusiness and maritime industries.

One major goal of these talks is initiating investment in a solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing park in which Trinidad’s competitive advantage for large-scale manufacture of solar panels for global export is particularly strong.

According to a yearlong feasibility study, investors stand to benefit from increased global demand for renewable energy which is set to double in the next 20 years. The solar energy market grew 45 percent every year for the past 15 years with installations reaching US$100 billion in 2013, the report indicated.

Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment Vasant Bharath, who is accompanying Persad-Bissessar on the trip and is a central figure in the government’s diversification thrust away from its oil and gas moorings, is expected to promote Trinidad and Tobago’s access to markets in Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean where high energy costs are forcing regional governments to seek out clean energy alternatives.

Bharath will market Trinidad and Tobago’s low energy cost advantage — one of the lowest worldwide — its experienced oil, gas and petrochemicals skills base and the availability of raw materials for solar PV facilities in the Caribbean.

The Prime Minister’s itinerary includes stops in the Sino-metropolises of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, known as much for their manufacturing and commercial clout as their significance as urban and cultural centers. Indeed, much of China’s economic wealth is concentrated in these megacities.

She will mark the occasion by opening Trinidad and Tobago’s first embassy in the Chinese capital Beijing on Feb. 26.

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