Chinese President Xi Jinping began a long-awaited trip to Latin America and the Caribbean on Friday to establish stronger political ties and influence in the region, and speak with leaders about increasing trade with the Asian giant.
It was the first visit by a Chinese head of state to the English-speaking Caribbean, and the first by Xi to the region. His first stop was in Trinidad and Tobago where he met with leaders of the Caribbean island nations that have no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan or Tibet as independent states.
“The people of China will never forget that Trinidad and Tobago gave its vote in favor of the welcoming back of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations in 1971,” said Xi as he met with reporters at Port of Spain during his first stop.
Xi’s visit comes one week after US Vice President Joe Biden met with Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders in Port of Spain.
Besides Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Bahamas, Guyana and Jamaica are the Caricom nations which recognize China. The leaders of St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines were not invited to the mini summit; those nations maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
On Sunday Xi also met with Guyanese President Donald Ramotar, Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie and Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller.
Xi offered concessionary loans to nine Caribbean nations totaling some $3 billion, Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced. We really welcomed that generosity,” she said.
The loans, on top of donations, will go to constructing new airports, upgrading tourism infrastructure, hydro-electrical plants, and improvements to public and maritime transport systems.
During his stay in Trinidad, Xi also announced that China was awarding a $250-million loan to build a children's hospital in the twin-island nation. He signed a memorandum of understanding to advance cooperation in energy, mineral and infrastructure development, among other areas. The Chinese leader was also interested in drafting new accords for the transfer of technology in agriculture, medical sciences and education with the rest of the Caribbean islands present at the summit.
Xi was scheduled to arrive in Costa Rica on Monday and then head off to Mexico for two days before rounding off his trip with a hastily arranged meeting with President Barack Obama in the United States over the weekend.