China urged to boost ties with Jamaica

Updated: 2013-08-24 01:51

By Pu Zhendong (China Daily)

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Head of Caribbean state on six-day visit; meets top leaders in Beijing

Thriving Sino-Jamaican relations should not be limited to economic partnerships, but extended to global issues, the visiting Jamaican prime minister said on Friday.

Portia Simpson-Miller, 68, who is on a six-day official visit to China starting on Tuesday, held separate talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

China urged to boost ties with Jamaica

Portia Simpson-Miller,Jamaica's prime minister

"The meetings were good, and we had discussions on a number of bilateral and international issues. The President spoke to us very clearly on China's support of Jamaica and of the Caribbean states", she said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

A Jamaican government official said that during the meetings, China promised to launch a major infrastructure development program worth $300 million in Jamaica, among other pledges to build institutions benefiting children and Confucius Institutes. China also agreed to provide a $164,000 grant to Jamaica.

"Jamaica is grateful for China's longtime help and support, and is willing to strengthen communication and coordination with China, to jointly cope with climate change and other global challenges," Simpson-Miller said.

As Jamaica's only and first female prime minister, Simpson-Miller was ranked by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012.

She said that the priority of the trip was to seek business opportunities in China and to encourage more Chinese investors to go to Jamaica, adding that the delegation also met Chinese business leaders from the China Development Bank and other companies.

"Jamaica has a number of areas that need development, like the airport and logistic hubs," she said, adding that she hopes that Chinese investors find opportunities in agriculture, tourism and manufacturing.

Simpson-Miller said that ties between the two countries should transcend the economic level and extend to global concerns, including climate change.

"China can use its powerful voice globally in the UN or other international forums, express the concerns for the world to pay attention to the issue," she said.

"It is not something that only affects China and Jamaica. We have been pushing it not only in Jamaica, but in Caribbean countries as well. We want a global response to climate change," she added.

China established diplomatic relations with Jamaica in 1972. The island is China's biggest trade partner in the Caribbean region, with bilateral trade at $817 million.

"Jamaica started a relationship with China 40 years ago, when it was not fashionable. As a small developing country, Jamaica has always been supportive of the one-China policy. Jamaica never did waver, and we will continue our support," she said.

She recalled Xi's trip to Trinidad and Tobago in June, saying that the Caribbean states have always held China in high regard, and have always cooperated and worked well with the country over the years.

During that trip, Xi met leaders from the Caribbean states and renewed China's pledge to support their development by stepping up initiatives from the third China-Caribbean Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, which was held in 2011.

Simpson-Miller said she met Xi in Trinidad and Tobago, and appreciated the concept of the "Chinese dream", which was proposed by Xi to highlight the shared dream of the Chinese people to rejuvenate their country.

"Jamaicans have a dream as well, of our people uniting as one Jamaican family, shaping the future of Jamaica together," she said. "I think the two dreams share similar spirits."

Simpson-Miller also revealed that the two countries are improving visa policies to boost tourism.

"We want Chinese tourists to visit Jamaica and Jamaicans to be able to visit China," she said.

"Jamaica is a very beautiful island, and is worldwide regarded as the precious diamond of the Caribbean Sea, with warm and hospitable people."