Sunday 19 January, 2020

Broad satisfaction expressed by Holness with China trip

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) pictured with President Xi Jingping of China during Holness' just-concluded official working visit to the far eastern country.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) pictured with President Xi Jingping of China during Holness' just-concluded official working visit to the far eastern country.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Saturday concluded his official working visit to China which started with a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jingping and an address to the opening ceremony of the China International Import Exposition in Shanghai.

Holness then journeyed to Beijing, where he held further bilateral talks with Premier Li Kequiang. Those meetings were used to review Jamaica’s current co-operation framework with China, and explore additional areas of co-operation that were agreed upon under a new strategic framework.

Under the current framework of co-operation, the North-South Highway construction by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) was highlighted, along with Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company’s (JISCO) purchase of the Alpart plant and mining rights, as the two major Chinese investments in Jamaica. Infrastructure work completed and ongoing under loan co-operation programmes Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP), Major Infrastructure Development Programme (MIDP), and the South Coast Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP), were also mentioned.

Gratitude was expressed on behalf of the people of Jamaica for China’s assistance in agreeing to construct a new state-of-the-art Western Children and Adolescent Hospital in St James; constructing two infant schools, one in St Andrew and the other in St Thomas; and the new headquarters building for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in downtown Kingston.

Under the new strategic framework, the two governments have agreed to focus efforts on increasing trade, particularly to encourage more Jamaican goods and services to be exported to the Chinese market. This process has already begun with the exportation of live lobster into China, and work is ongoing to finalise the procedures with the Chinese authorities to allow for exportation of frozen lobster.

An important aspect of Holness’ visit was to address the opening ceremony of the China International Import Exposition, where Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) and Jamaican private sector companies showcased Jamaican products and services.

 

“Already we have seen great interest and increased demand for Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee and rums,” said Holness during a wrap-up interview in China.

On the investment side, he said co-operation on infrastructure will continue, but the Government of Jamaica, in keeping with its commitment to reduce debt rapidly, would not negotiate any new loan programmes with China at present.

Holness went on to say that infrastructure projects will, therefore, take the modalities of joint venture partnerships, public/private partnerships or private sector transactions directly between Jamaican and Chinese firms in the normal course of business. Under the new co-operation framework, investments will be more strategic and focused on the development of special economic zones and logistics hubs, urban centre development, water and sewerage, agriculture and affordable housing.

Holness expressed the view that those areas were strategic for investments because they could be pursued on an open and profitable commercial basis within fiscal incentives allowed by the law and without Government necessarily incurring more debt or having to take any equity stake. He also noted that the areas were strategic because they were aligned with the Government's objectives of stimulating growth, creating jobs and building resilience in Jamaica’s economy.

The prime minister also welcomed China’s willingness to open its markets to more goods from Jamaica other than bauxite, and the interest in investing in the Jamaican economy.

Another area of greater co-operation under the strategic partnerships framework is education. Prime Minister Holness said China has always been supportive of Jamaica’s education system from the primary to the tertiary level. He also cited that the world is now in the fourth industrial revolution, and small developing countries like Jamaica need to invest more heavily in equipping its citizens with 21st century skills and resources to close the digital divide and ensure the availability of a quality work force for the jobs of the future. Through the partnership with China, Holness said the Government will be focusing on technology training and building out more school infrastructure to accomplish the required goals.

Holness also expressed pleasure that later this month, China’s Vice Minister for Education, Weng Tiehui, is to visit Jamaica to sign an MOU in the field of education, and to exchange views on new strategies that are needed to prepare societies for the future of the working world.

In China, both Jamaica and the home country placed emphasis on sports and culture. Holness praised China’s expertise in various sports, including field events, and expressed Jamaica’s interest in accessing training in those events.

And as Jamaica is the revered ‘sprint capital’ of the world, Holness said he looks forward to having students from China benefiting from technical assistance and training opportunities at Jamaican institutions.

Jamaica's sprint king, Usain Bolt.

The noted that already a delegation of 138 Jamaican coaches and athletes have visited China to further develop skills in their respective disciplines under the ongoing Jamaica/China Technical Assistance Sport Coaching Project, which is in its second year. He said Jamaica is keen to expand the scope of the project, and welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in the field of Sports.

Holness also said climate change is the greatest present challenge for mankind, and a grave threat to small island developing states. He said Jamaica is mindful of the potential catastrophic consequences of climate change and weather-related events on the people and economy.

The Jamaican prime minister updated Premier Li on the many initiatives Jamaica has implemented, such as a ban on single-use plastics, a national tree-planting and reforestation programme, increasing renewables and reducing carbon emissions in the electricity sector, thereby preserving the environment and oceans and minimising the impacts of climate change. Holness also acknowledged China’s efforts to improve air quality and reduce emissions through a massive expansion in renewables and green technologies.

After their meeting, Prime Minister Holness and Premier Li both expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the engagements and the official visit in general, and both reaffirmed their commitment to a partnership of mutual respect and friendship. It was also agreed that co-operation between the two sides would strategically connect opportunities with resources to achieve inclusive growth, meaningful job creation and poverty alleviation in an “open, green and clean, as well as high-standard, sustainable and people-centred” way.

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