Statement to Parliament on the Official Visit to the People’s Republic of China by The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP Prime Minister on 12 November 2019
Mr Speaker, I was accompanied by eight persons: Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; the Most Hon Juliet Holness; two Close Protection Officers and technical, communications and support personnel from the Office of the Prime Minister. The cost to the Government for my delegation was approximately seventy-nine thousand United States dollars. The Chinese Government was responsible for covering my airfare and that of my wife as well as the airfare for the entire delegation for the two domestic flights to other cities as well as the accommodation in China.
Additionally, Mr Speaker let me note for the record that a separate delegation led by Minister Shaw and comprising Ms Diane Edwards, President of JAMPRO and other technical support personnel from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries and JAMPRO were also in China to attend the 2nd China International Import Exposition in Shanghai. Support as a Guest Country of Honour was received from China and therefore the cost to the Government of Jamaica for the delegation led by Minister Shaw was approximately twenty-eight thousand United States dollars.
During the visit to China, the delegation from the Office of the Prime Minister visited four major cities; namely Shanghai, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Beijing for various activities and meetings. Overall, it was a fruitful and productive visit with the signing of a number of agreements which will be mentioned herein. I also received a firsthand view of innovation and efficiency at work and held strategic meetings to garner interest in key areas such as logistics, energy, agriculture and tourism.
Mr Speaker, shortly after our arrival in Shanghai, China (which was our first stop), we took the opportunity to meet with the diaspora; including persons from other Caribbean territories. This was a very engaging evening in which Jamaican nationals living in China were encouraged to seek out opportunities for collaboration and investment.
In Shanghai, a bilateral meeting was held with President Xi Jinping; during which Jamaica’s current cooperation framework with China was discussed with additional areas of cooperation to be agreed upon under a new strategic framework.
Current Cooperation Framework
It was noted that under the current framework of cooperation, the North-South Highway construction by China Harbour Engineering Company was highlighted along with JISCO’s purchase of the Alpart plant and mining rights as the two major Chinese investments in Jamaica. Infrastructure work completed and ongoing under loan cooperation programmes JDIP, 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 constructing a new state of the art Western Children and Adolescent Hospital in St. James, two infant schools, one in St. Andrew and the other in St. Thomas, and the new headquarters building for our Foreign Affairs Ministry in Down Town Kingston.
We also met with the management teams of JISCO and CHEC as well as a number of potential investors in the areas of commerce, logistics, energy, agriculture and tourism.
During the Shanghai portion of the visit, the major feature of my visit was the delivery of remarks at the second China International Import Exposition as one of the Guest Countries of Honour. This event attracted more than 3,600 companies from over 170 countries; (including almost 200 companies from the United States).
Mr Speaker, let me emphasize that China with a population of approximately 1.4 billion (approximately 20% of the world’s population) represents the single largest market in the global space.
We must, therefore, position ourselves to increase our exports to that country. Therefore, it was strategic that JAMPRO and Jamaican private sector companies showcased Jamaica’s products and services during the CIIE. It is to be noted that Jamaica’s participation as Guest of Honour meant that the display area was about four times the area given during the previous expo. Jamaica was displayed under the theme – Experience Jamaica. In one aspect from the point of view as a visitor which included experiencing the flavours of our rum and coffee. The other aspect highlighted – Experience do business Jamaica – with a focus on logistics, manufacturing, frozen lobster; agriculture and outsourcing. Companies showed keen interest in Jamaican products and additional markets were identified for fresh fruits, pork and seafood such as sea cucumber. JAMPRO is keenly following up to secure deals.
During the visits to Shenzhen and Zhuhai, I had the opportunity to view firsthand and experience areas related to logistics, port operations, infrastructure development and preservation of cultural heritage. The best practices that have been adopted in these areas and the rapid pace of development are good examples for Jamaica to emulate as we build out our new Jamaica.
Mr Speaker, this visit served to reaffirm the friendship between the two nations and develop a structured framework to the relationship.
The New Strategic Framework
Mr Speaker, the new strategic partnership reflects an enhanced level of engagement between the two countries within the context of Jamaica’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. This strategic partnership positions Jamaica to pursue development cooperation with China in keeping with our own clearly defined national development strategic priorities, on the basis of mutual respect and shared benefits. 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 export of live lobster into China and we are in the process of finalizing the procedures with the Chinese authorities to allow for export of frozen lobster.
On the investment side, the Government of Jamaica in keeping with its firm commitment to reduce debt rapidly, will not negotiate any new loan programmes with our Chinese partners. Infrastructure projects will, therefore, take the modalities of joint venture partnerships, public-private partnerships, or private sector transactions directly between Jamaican firms and Chinese firms as the normal course of business. Under the new cooperation 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. These areas are strategic for investments and are aligned with the government’s objectives of stimulating growth, creating jobs, and building resilience in Jamaica’s economy and will be pursued on an open, profitable commercial basis.
COOPERATION IN EDUCATION
Another area of greater cooperation under the strategic partnerships framework is education. It was noted that China has always been supportive of our education system from the primary to the tertiary level. However, it was emphasized that the world is now in the fourth industrial revolution, and small developing countries like Jamaica must invest more heavily in equipping its citizens with 21st-century skills and resources to close the digital divide and ensure that our workers qualify for the jobs of the future.
Through our partnership, the Government will be focusing on technology training and building out more school infrastructure. Later this month, Vice Minister for Education for China, Ms Weng Tiehui, will pay a Working Visit to Jamaica to sign a MOU in the field of Education and to exchange views on new strategies needed to prepare our societies for the future of work.
I was officially welcomed in Beijing with a ceremonial guard of honour and display of Chinese culture.
Mr Speaker our hosts are being positively impacted by the Jamaican culture too. I was impressed with the renditions of Jamaican folk melodies by the Chinese military band and this was capped off with the band playing the popular reggae song, ‘Toast’ by our very own Koffee. So you see Mr Speaker, there is a shared view that Jamaica has a lot to offer as we seek to strategically expand and extend our own cultural and other footprint across the global.
COOPERATION IN SPORT
Mr Speaker, both Jamaica and China place emphasis on sport and culture. China’s expertise in various sports, including field events, was highlighted and Jamaica’s interest in training in these areas were discussed.
As Jamaica is the “Sprint Capital” of the world, I noted Mr Speaker that we look forward to having students from China benefitting from technical assistance and training opportunities at Jamaican institutions.
A delegation of 138 Jamaican coaches and athletes visited China to further develop skills in their respective disciplines under the ongoing Jamaica/China Technical Assistance Sports Coaching Project which is in its second year.
Jamaica is keen to expand the scope of this project and welcomes the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in the field of Sport.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND RESILIENCE BUILDING THROUGH GREATER APPLICATION OF TECHNOLOGY.
Mr Speaker, undoubtedly, climate change is the greatest challenge for mankind and an existential threat for Small Island Developing States. Jamaica is ever mindful of the potential catastrophic consequences of climate change and weather-related events on our people and economy. During the bilateral with Premier Li, I outlined the many initiatives Jamaica has implemented, such as a ban on single-use plastics, national tree planting and reforestation programme, increasing renewables and reducing carbon emissions, thereby doing our part to preserve our environment and oceans and minimize the impacts of climate change.
Mr Speaker, inasmuch as climate change is the greatest threat to mankind, never before in human history has mankind possessed the knowledge and technology to effectively deal with such a threat. The world has the capability to adapt existing technologies and create new technologies to mitigate and build resilience to climate change.
It was discussed that developed countries must increase their ambitions in climate actions and keep their commitments to various international climate change agreements, particularly those regarding support for vulnerable small developing economies. Jamaica looks forward to further discussions at the multilateral and bilateral levels to address the climate change challenge, with particular strategic focus on sharing technologies in water security, renewable energy, and smarter environmental management systems.
Mr Speaker, for the record, I will list the seven agreements which were signed:
- Cooperation Plan between the Government of China and the Government of Jamaica on Jointly Promoting Belt and Road
- MOU on Strengthening Comprehensive Cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Jamaica
- MOU between the Ministry of Commerce of China and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica on Establishing the Joint Economic and Trade Commission
- MOU on China-Jamaica Exchange and Cooperation on Sports
- MOU on China-Jamaica Cooperation on Human Resources Development
- Exchange of Letters on China-Aided Electronic Office Supplies and CT Scanners Project
- Sister City Agreement between Yantai and Kingston
Mr Speaker, it was agreed that cooperation between Jamaica and the People’s Republic of China would strategically connect opportunities with resources to achieve inclusive growth, meaningful job creation and lift our peoples out of poverty in an “open, green and clean, as well as a high-standard, sustainable and people-centered” way.