ADDRESS BY PRIME MINISTER OF JAMAICA MOST HON. P.J. PATTERSON, O.N., P.C., Q.C., M.P. AT OPENING CEREMONY CHINA-CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC AND TRADE FORUM


Today’s ceremony marks a major milestone in the growing relationship between the peoples and Governments of the People’s Republic of China and the Caribbean. On this very special and historic occasion, we have come together to open a new chapter in the relationship of our nations as we formally establish the China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Co-operation Forum.
Since their arrival in this Region more than one hundred and fifty (150) years ago as indentured labourers, Chinese inhabitants have been an integral part of the rich kaleidoscope of peoples who make up the vibrant tapestry of Caribbean society and culture. Over the years, Caribbean nationals of Chinese ancestry have made a significant contribution to the economic development of the many countries of our Region.
An increasing number of Caribbean countries have now become committed to the ‘One China Policy’ and are active participants in our mutually beneficial cooperation programmes. Presently, China enjoys diplomatic relations with eleven Caribbean countries, the most recent being Grenada. But all sixteen countries and non-sovereign territories of the Caribbean are engaged with China through some form of economic and trade relationship.
It is against this background, we welcome the opportunity afforded by this Forum to reinforce the already strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the countries of our Region.
We commend China for its continued outreach to the Latin American and Caribbean regions, and her desire as demonstrated through this Forum, to further enhance our mutual cooperation and advancement of the welfare of the Caribbean peoples.
This Economic and Trade Co-operation Forum, with the theme “Co-operating for Development”, comes at an opportune time as we seek to develop a more collaborative approach to our interaction. The Forum is correctly being established at the Ministerial level as political will and commitment are critical to its success. The enhanced linkages promised by this Forum in the area of technical and economic cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Caribbean cannot be overstated. In today’s globalised economy Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean are more vulnerable than ever before and face new and daunting challenges.
The cooperation and responsiveness envisaged by the Guiding Framework document for this Forum will serve to further strengthen the ties between the Caribbean and China. By focusing on the promotion of economic and technical cooperation, our discussions will centre around issues that are not only pertinent but at the very core of our Region’s developmental aspirations.
I am particularly pleased that one of the critical components of this Forum is the development of our human resource. We in the Caribbean are well aware of the importance of people-centred development. We are determined to provide the requisite education and training to our workforce so as to improve our productivity through the application of scientific and technological innovations. We are confident that the mechanism provided by this Forum will open up new avenues for employing “cutting-edge technology” to the diversification of our economies and the exploitation of our natural resources for our own benefit.
The time has come to explore and exploit new avenues for economic and trade cooperation between China and our Region. We are confident that this Forum will facilitate the type of joint venture arrangements and other mutually beneficial partnerships which we are seeking and will thereby increase the volume of trade between our countries.
Tourism is an important industry in most of the countries of our Region. China’s granting of approved destination status to the majority of the countries in the Region therefore provides an exciting opportunity to offer the Caribbean as a complete multi-destination package to the large and growing Chinese market.
The Business Conference segment of the Forum is designed for face-to-face dialogue between senior level executives from China and the Caribbean manufacturing and service sectors. We are hopeful that this interaction will create new and productive partnerships.
We have all witnessed the phenomenal strides being made by China and her growing economic importance in the international arena. We acknowledge the consistent support of the Chinese Government for the countries of the developing world, including those in the Caribbean. We express our sincere appreciation for the substantial developmental assistance given by China to the countries of the Region.
As the current Chairman of the Group of 77 countries, it is important to mention the fact that China’s presence not only provides numerical strength but negotiating clout and I look forward to the day when G77 will no longer be classified as developing countries.
At the China-Caribbean Trade Fair at the National Arena this week, we will have the opportunity to examine the range and quality of a wide selection of Chinese manufactured goods to which I am sure we are no strangers. Chinese goods have been staples in our countries for many years but there is a wider range of goods which now bear the stamp or label “Made in China”.
Jamaica joins with 39 nations that now recognize China as a market economy within the definition and rules of the WTO.
This Forum represents a practical and far-sighted approach to how we handle the challenges of globalisation and develop initiatives to further address our concerns and vulnerabilities as Small States.
As we face the daunting task of opening up our economies, we welcome today’s bold initiative, which can be seen as a pre-emptive measure on the part of the countries represented here to safeguard our economic and technical progress and to enhance our common development in partnership with the People’s Republic of China.
It is indeed a pleasure for me to declare open this important Forum – “Cooperating for Development”.

JIS Social