KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — A Chinese vice premier and a 60-member delegation arrived in Jamaica’s capital Monday to sign two grants to boost the island’s development as the Asian economic giant steps up its investments across the Caribbean.
Vice Premier Hui Liangyu said Beijing is committed to assisting Jamaica, a heavily indebted middle-income country that gets most of its foreign exchange from tourism, remittances from Jamaicans working abroad and exports of bauxite.
“China is determined to give you the necessary help in the future,” Hui said through a translator during a brief ceremony at the Jamaican prime minister’s office.
He made the comments after Chinese and Jamaican officials signed two grants worth $3.1 million. The money will go to projects mutually agreed upon after consultation by both governments.
Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding said China has recently signed off on nearly $8 million in grants, including a pact made last week at a two-day trade forum in Trinidad.
The Chinese delegation touring the region underlined the growing economic links between the Asian industrial powerhouse and the tourism-dependent Caribbean. Finance officials across the region, where the U.S. is still the largest investment source, have welcomed China’s growing involvement.
Last week, Hui visited Trinidad for a China-Caribbean economic and trade forum attended by hundreds of Chinese and Caribbean government officials and business executives. At that meeting, China announced it will provide up to $1 billion in soft loans to Caribbean countries to help bolster its economic relationship with the region.
Another Chinese vice premier, Wang Qishan, announced he wanted to see the implementation of more projects that focus on finance, infrastructure and tourism. China’s ministry of commerce announced that Beijing intends to collaborate on solar energy projects and the construction of schools.
Guyana’s government said China has pledged to give that country $4.7 million. A Chinese delegation that visited the Bahamas before the forum in Trinidad pledged up to $5 million in funding for the island chain off Florida’s eastern coast.
In Jamaica, Li Ruogu, chairman of the state-owned China Exim Bank, which handles most of China’s overseas aid loans, said he was committed to developing strong economic ties between China and Jamaica.
“That is our very determined and firm commitment. So ladies and gentlemen and friends, please trust us. We will be your development partner,” he said.
China is making similar pledges elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. It is lending and investing tens of billions of dollars in Latin American countries in return for a guaranteed flow of commodities, particularly oil.
Recent deals have made China a key financier to the governments of Venezuela and Argentina. At the same time, Chinese companies have secured a decade’s worth of oil from Venezuela and Brazil, and steady supplies of wheat, soybeans and natural gas from Argentina.