This suggestion has come from Minister of Economic Affairs and Empowerment, Innovation, Trade, Industry and Commerce, David Estwick, as he implored regional service providers to explore opportunities to bring more Chinese tourists to the Caribbean.
He made this observation while addressing the Caribbean Export Development Agency’s and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade sponsored China-Caribbean business dialogue at Hilton Barbados, recently.
Estwick lamented the fact that the language barrier prevented the region from forging a deeper economic and commercial relationship with the Asian superpower and appealed for the creation of additional institutions similar to the Confucius Institute at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica, to teach the Chinese language.
“The opening of the Conficius Institute at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, is a clear indication of the need for us in the Caribbean, to become proficient in the Chinese language. I have been informed that this institute will vigorously support the development of the Chinese language not only in Jamaica, but throughout the region,” he observed.
He further stated: “It is therefore critical that the region promotes such institutions and encourage our people to participate in the programmes that are being offered at that institution.”
Describing China as an exporting powerhouse, the Economic Affairs Minister said China’s success could be attributed to “its advantageous labour supply situation, the ability to provide reasonably priced consumer goods and a vast expertise in research and development”.
Given this scenario, Estwick said China achieved a Gross Domestic Product of US $7.8 trillion last year and its economy was projected to grow by 8.1 per cent this year, as a result of a fiscal stimulus package of approximately US $2.24 trillion.
Despite China’s economic success, the Economic Affairs Minister expressed concern about Barbados’ trade deficit with China which was to the tune of US $55 million. “I would like to see greater exports of Caribbean and indeed Barbadian good and services to China, and a considerable improvement in the current trade imbalance. Our assessment is that the export of services, particularly tourism, provides the best opportunity for the region to reduce this particular imbalance,” Estwick stressed.
He lauded Caribbean Export for hosting the dialogue and expressed the hope that the discussion would lead to a closer working relationship with China.
By Julie Wilson