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China Making Big Push In Caribbean

Vice President Zeng Qinghong currently touring region ending with China-Caribbean trade forum in Jamaica


February 3, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Vice President Zeng Qinghong of China is currently on a five-nation visit to Latin America and the Caribbean, culminating with a massive China-Caribbean Economic & Trade Forum & Exposition in Kingston, Jamaica.

Zeng arrived in Mexico Jan. 23 and then continued to Peru, Venezuela, and Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) before arriving in Jamaica for the opening ceremony of the forum where he was joined by Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.

Indicating the importance that China attaches to Zeng’s mission is that he is accompanied by a large delegation of more than 100 government officials involved in trade and tourism, as well as representatives of some five-dozen Chinese companies looking to do business.

"I’m convinced my current visit will yield positive results as expected and further develop strategic partnerships between China and the region," said Zeng on his arrival in Mexico City.

China watchers are observing the development closely because it indicates China’s robust and expanding economy continues to require massive imports of raw materials from around the world whether they be oil and gas, minerals, steel or a wide variety of agricultural commodities.

China’s aim also is to increase its relations with as many countries as possible while at the same time further isolating Taiwan, which currently has diplomatic relations with only some two-dozen countries. With the recent switch of Grenada from Taiwan to China (CB Jan. 20), the number in the region has dropped to only three in the English-speaking Caribbean, plus the Dominican Republic (D.R.) and Haiti.

There is such widespread interest in the China event that virtually every hotel in Kingston is sold out for the week, as representatives from throughout the region seek to expand their ties to China in both trade and tourism.

D.R. being watched

D.R. Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso announced the D.R. would choose where its interests are best represented. In commenting on the visit of a high-level Chinese delegation to Santo Domingo, Morales acknowledged the D.R. has had diplomatic relations with Taiwan since before Taiwan went into exile in 1949. "Taiwan itself is the leading investor in mainland China," said Morales.

President Leonel Fernández, who visited Taiwan twice during his first term (1996-2000) has handled the current visit of the Chinese delegation delicately since the D.R. has diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The Dominican leader said that during the first three months of 2004 Taiwan imported $451 million from the D.R. and exported more than $100 million to it. Taiwan’s imports from the D.R. consisted of medical instruments, apparel, coffee, cigars, scrap iron, and aluminum.

Fernández said about 70 Taiwan firms are operating manufacturing plants in the free trade zones of the D.R. and they employ more than 3,500 workers. Taiwan has been a supplier of technical assistance to the D.R., helping improve rice production, establishing bamboo plantations, and developing community-farm produce projects.

A China delegation, headed by deputy foreign minister of International Liaison Cai Wu, met with Fernández and leaders of the three major political parties in the D.R. Actually, the Chinese delegation was hosted by the Dominican Liberation Party of Fernández and he met them in his capacity as party head. The visitors also met with the leaders of the Revolutionary and Reformist parties.

"China is a reality in today’s world that has made large investments in Latin America and seeks to make more," said Morales. He mentioned Chinese companies have made large investments in a cement plant in San Cristobal and that Minmetal, the Chinese mineral conglomerate, is currently negotiating with Falconbridge of Canada for the purchase of its massive ferronickel mine in Bonao, reportedly for upwards of $5 billion.

"The impending free trade agreement that the D.R. has concluded with the U.S. could serve to encourage China to increase its investments in the D.R.," said Morales, pointing out that China is part of the G20, the alliance of leading economic powers headed by Brazil, China, India, and South Africa. He indicated this alliance should be influential when the D.R. decides on its diplomatic relations," namely whether to continue with Taiwan or change to China. He said the ultimate decision would be made by President Fernández himself.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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