Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Chinese businesses are being encouraged to come to Jamaica and set up shop with the promise of closer access to United States markets.
Ralph Thomas, Jamaica's ambassador in China, said yesterday that the visit of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to the Asian nation was critical to the country's push to make Jamaica a trans-shipment hub.
"Her presence here in China is very important in cementing relationships and ensuring that certain matters, which have been under way, are taken further at the highest level," Thomas said.
Simpson Miller, who was met on arrival at the Beijing International Airport by China's Assistant Foreign Minister, Zheng Zeguang, is slated to have meetings with senior representatives of Complant, China Harbour, China Gezhouba Group Co, and China Development Bank. She will also have meetings with China's president, Xi Jinping, before journeying on Saturday to visit the Huawei facilities in Shanghai.
STATE, BUSINESS MEETINGS
Thomas said in addition to using her visit to mark the 40th year of diplomatic relationships between both countries, Simpson Miller would be following up on discussions held in Trinidad and Tobago earlier this year when Xi met with CARICOM leaders.
"She is meeting with not only state institutions, but also other companies with an interest in Jamaica. There are some specific transactions which you will hear more about in the next few months, or weeks, as we go along," the ambassador said.
Earlier this month, Works Minister Dr Omar Davies said the Government was in negotiations with a major Chinese corporation that wanted to invest US$1.5 billion in Jamaica.
At the time, Davies said the project involved major expansion to existing facilities at the island's main seaport and that the investment would change the employment picture across the entire Kingston Metropolitan Region.
VISIT AT CRITICAL TIME
Thomas, in emphasising the importance of China in Jamaica's economic affairs, said Simpson Miller's visit comes at a critical time and sends the signal that the country is open for business. The Government has been pushing the development of a logistics hub as a major part of its growth agenda.
Thomas noted that with the expansion of the Panama Canal due to be completed in 2015, Jamaica must be in a position to capitalise on the potential that the opportunity offers.
"The infrastructure that will allow us to benefit from this requires serious investments of time, effort, money, and expertise and knowledge, and so partnering with the Chinese at this point will be critical in achieving those objectives," Thomas said.
The ambassador said that in meeting with representatives of companies that are seeking to do business in Jamaica, Simpson Miller's visit would redound to the benefit of the country.
"It's the prime minister's presence, it's her charm, it's her ability to represent Jamaica in this specific arena that I think will add the extra value that Jamaica needs at this time," the ambassador said.