By Fareeza Haniff in Nanjing, China
China has been described as a “major player” in international trade when it comes to the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region and on Thursday, the communist government received significant praise from Guyanese officials for investing heavily in the region.
At the opening ceremony of the Fifth Forum on China and LAC: Dialogues between Civilizations, held in Nanjing City, Jiangsu Province, Guyana’s Ambassador to China, Anyin Choo highlighted the many areas China has provided assistance, especially in the health and education sectors.
The forum is being held under the theme, ‘Sharing Opportunities for Development and Building a Better Future.’
Delivering opening remarks in the presence of officials from the Chinese government, Ambassador Choo reminded that China is the second-largest trading partner of the LAC region, and the annual bilateral trade volume has exceeded US$300 billion for three consecutive years.
She noted that in 2021, bilateral trade volume between China and the LAC region totalled about US$450 billion, and economists predict that it could exceed US$700 billion by 2035.
“China is currently South America’s top trading partner and the second-largest for Latin America as a whole. The LAC region is also the second-largest destination for Chinese outbound investment, with more than 3000 Chinese-funded enterprises operating in Latin America and the Caribbean,” the Guyanese diplomat told the large gathering.
Quoting data from Chinese Customs, Ambassador Choo noted that Guyana’s bilateral trade volume with China has increased 213 per cent over the last five years with an average annual growth rate of more than 42.5 per cent against the backdrop of a global pandemic.
“So, what does this mean for the LAC region? This translates into increased productive capacities, the transfer of skills and technologies, the creation of jobs, income and improved standard of living for the people of the LAC region and market opportunities and access to resources for the Chinese side.”
Choo also touched on investments China has made in the human resource component, noting that it is essential for development.
“Training of persons under the scholarship and technical training programs offered by the Chinese Government has assisted the LAC region and by extension Guyana; to bridge the skills gap in our human capital resources and has contributed positively to the capacity building and institutional strengthening of key agencies across our region.”
Investments in Guyana’s healthcare
Specific to Guyana, Choo reiterated China’s investment in the country’s healthcare system, more so during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic when Guyana was short of vaccines and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
“Through medical cooperation, the health sector and Guyanese citizens have benefited significantly from the expanded surgical techniques and modern equipment received from the Chinese side as well as the establishment of five specialized centers within our public hospitals,” Choo said.
According to Choo, the host city of the forum – Jiangsu Province – has sent several medical brigades to Guyana since 1993.
“In Guyana, our health care system is not the best, but the Guyanese public health care system ensures that all, have a basic right to health care; whether you are a Guyanese citizen or a foreigner and regardless of your immigration or social status; just remember to give the doctor the same name every time you back to the hospital.”
Also expressing similar sentiments was Guyana’s former Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who addressed the gathering virtually.
Dr Ramsammy lauded the 30 years of ‘medical partnership’ between Guyana and China and also announced that the 18th medical brigade is currently preparing to depart for Guyana.
“In the last 30 years, China has been one of the pivotal partners in Guyana’s government, providing healthcare to our people,” Dr Ramsammy said.
Both Guyanese officials underscored the importance of the forum in providing an opportunity to increase cooperation between China and the LAC region.
“As Guyana joins Argentina, Mexico and Jamaica in celebrating 50 years of formal diplomatic relations with China this year, Guyana is committed to strengthening its partnership with China towards ‘shared opportunities for development and building a better future’ as a member of the global community. Happy 50th,” Ambassador Choo concluded.
Meanwhile, the Vice Minister of China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Xie Feng, highlighted the province’s shipping connectivity and its importance to China’s economy and that of the LAC region.
“Jiangsu has made continuous efforts to advance high-level opening up. Its cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean countries across various areas has registered fast progress and delivered mutual benefits, adding new substance to China-LAC relations in the new era,” the Chinese government official contended.
He praised the continued growth of relations between China and Latin America and the Caribbean, noting that this new era requires “broad participation, intellectual contribution and synergy among governments and all social sectors of both sides.”
The forum concludes on Friday.