BY JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant business co-ordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
BEIJING, China — JAMAICA became China's top trading partner in the Caribbean in 2012 and the communist country is committed to forming deeper business alliances with the island going forward, says Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Xi made the declaration at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China yesterday as he met with Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who is on a five-day official visit to the country.
According to Xi, trade between China and Jamaica tripled in the three years from 2009, the last time he visited the island, before he was president.
"This shows that all our hard work has paid off," said Xi. "It also proves that our bilateral business communication has room for further development."
The Chinese have rapidly increased their economic footprint in Jamaica over the last decade with billions of dollars in foreign direct investment to the island. Kingston is the Caribbean headquarters for China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), which has been contracted to conduct major infrastructural projects in the country. Another huge Chinese investor, Complant, purchased three sugar factories and leased 30,000 hectares of cane-growing lands from the Government of Jamaica while committing to invest US$156 million in improvements in fields and factories over a four-year period.
CHEC is also collaborating with the Jamaican government as it explores the construction of a major transshipment hub on the island.
Against this background, Xi said, "Economic cooperation and trade has always been a pillar for our bilateral relationship."
However, Jamaica in 2012 had a reported trade deficit of US$755.4 million with China, the largest among Caribbean Community countries. Boosting exports to China, the most populous market in the world with 1.4 billion people, is one of the areas of focus for Simpson Miller's delegation.
Along with Xi, Simpson Miller met yesterday with representatives from the China Development Bank; Zhang Dejiang, the chairman of the Chinese communist party; and the China Gezhouba Group, a Chinese construction and engineering company that focuses on water conservancy and hydro power, among a variety of other projects.