China, Jamaica enhance business ties
The new highways along with many of the construction cranes reshaping Kingston's skyline are controlled by Chinese interests, but those investments have been happening outside a wider government-to-government agreement, not-withstanding the countries' expanding trade ties.
On Thursday, Jamaica's Ministry of Industry Commerce Agriculture and Fisheries and the government of China signed a Development Cooperation Framework Agreement to "concretise" business developments aimed at pushing investments both ways.
"It's one thing to have officials from China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) and other companies that have done business in Jamaica to have trade missions with China to strengthen trade, but it is another thing when you have the support and endorsement by the government of China," said Industry Minister Karl Samuda in response to the Financial Gleaner on the rationale for the agreement.
The signing ceremony held at the industry ministry's New Kingston office, included a Chinese delegation led by Ning Jizhe, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, along with Niu Qingbao, Ambassador of China to Jamaica.
"His Excellency represents the Chinese, and it is that high level of commitment that will concretise any development project that will take place in Jamaica and lend the kind of support between business, and to make it possible to move forward more constructively," Samuda said.
The framework agreement covers a range of areas related to cooperation on investments, construction and infrastructure, cement manufacturing, resource processing, equipment manufacturing and light industry.
It also aims to encourage financial institutions in Jamaica and China to work out more efficient and cost-effective means of financing, co-financing, and asset insurance for bilateral cooperation. And it encourages companies on both sides to cooperate on projects via build-operate- transfer models, public-private partnerships, project contracting and equipment export within existing laws.
"China views Jamaica as an important partner in the region. It is an important country for growing production capacity in the region," said Ning Jizhe at the signing.
Already, loans and grants from China to Jamaica have surpassed any other donor nation at more than US$880 million with a raft of new loans on the horizon, according to data in the 2015 Economic and Social Survey. That amount related only to government-to-government financing programmes, which means they exclude public-private partnerships such as the North-South Highway developed by CHEC at some US$720 million, and other big Chinese construction companies whose cranes are branded across Kingston on current projects.