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'Stop blaming us' - China’s Ambassador to Jamaica rejects claims of unfair practices by Chinese firms in Jamaica

Published:Sunday | April 23, 2017 | 4:02 AMRyon Jones
NIU Qingbao (right), ambassador of China to Jamaica, shakes hands with Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton while Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith looks on. This followed the signing of Letters of Exchange between Jamaica and the People’s Republic of China for the Western Children’s Hospital Project.

China's Ambassador to Jamaica, NIU Qingbao, is urging local contractors to stop complaining about the number of Chinese companies landing big contracts in Jamaica and instead work on making themselves more attractive.

"I strongly believe globalisation brings benefit to all countries," NIU told The Sunday Gleaner in the wake of fresh concerns locally about the number of contracts, particularly on government projects, going to Chinese entities.

"It is the respective country's role to take care of its industries and sectors instead of just blocking foreign competition," added NIU.

 

Unable to compete

 

But immediate past president of the Incorporated Masterbuilders Association of Jamaica, Carvel Stewart, says the ambassador is downplaying the issue as when it comes to construction, local contractors are unable to compete with the powerful Chinese companies.

"You see all of these projects now being undertaken by Chinese companies because the locals cannot compete against the concessions that are granted, both in respect to labour and material," said Stewart.

"When you invite Chinese companies to bid against local contractors, you are asking the local contractors to bid against the government of China because all of these companies are agencies of the government of China," charged Stewart, as he accused the Chinese entities of dumping material and labour on the country through the various construction projects.

According to Stewart, local suppliers have noted that the prices declared to Customs for material imported by the Chinese are lower than what Jamaicans would pay.

But NIU scoffed at these claims, as he argued that while some Chinese companies might be able to source material at a cheaper price, this is purely down to their ability to bargain.

"Trade is about competitive advantage. Make foreign visits, make foreign friends, make use of your contacts; don't just sit at your comfortable home and hope to get things done at your cost," NIU instructed local companies.

"The Chinese government does not subsidise companies; they do not get any concession of labour or material. If you are good at bargaining in China you can buy things very cheap; if you are not, you may have to spend a lot of money.

"Dumping is not something to be allowed, but to judge which is dumping and which is not dumping is not that simple. What criteria do you use? Different products even in the same country can be sold at different prices."

The island's two major trade unions have also taken issue with some of the Chinese entities operating on the island, which they claim are not abiding by Jamaican labour laws and importing workers for jobs which Jamaicans are qualified to do.

"We know that there are several Chinese operating locally, and we are of the view that they are operating in roles that a Jamaican could be operating in," charged president of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, Kavan Gayle.

"We have situations right now plaguing the construction industry, where they have failed to recognise trade unions representing the workers, and we have had that challenge with China Harbour and Pan Caribbean in the past," added Gayle.

Gayle's colleague, head of National Workers' Union, Granville Valentine, further argued that for some time a number of Chinese have been coming into the island under false pretence.

"They come in the island much larger than the original agreement as it relates to what is their purpose," said Valentine.

"Your management team should not be larger than a reasonable structure of management, but we realise that a lot of these persons come in under the pretence of being managers or being engineers," alleged Valentine, as he argued that some Chinese take persons into Jamaica as part of their management teams but these persons end up doing low-skill work.

 

Show proof

 

But NIU is challenging the union leaders to substantiate their claims.

The ambassador told our news team that if the unions have proof of any wrongdoing on the part of Chinese companies they should report it to local law enforcement or take the offending party to court.

"I can't think of a single Chinese project in Jamaica hiring more Chinese workers than local workers," said Qingbao.

"It is not economical to hire workers from China in Jamaica; you have to provide shelter, food, everything, and that cost a lot of money," added NIU.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com