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Caribbean agenda for China’s G20 Summit

By Vicki Cann (People's Daily Online)    08:35, August 26, 2016
Caribbean agenda for China’s G20 Summit
(Guangming Daily/Guo Hongsong)

This year will be remembered for some positive reasons in the history of China’s landmark accomplishments including her impressive performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics that ended last week. That was one of the boldest and influential ways the country could interact with the world on a much lighter note, outside the tricky terrains of international diplomacy and economic tussles.

Earlier in the year and in reference to China and the Caribbean relationship, President Xi Jinping had dubbed 2016 the China-Latin America and the Caribbean Year of Cultural Exchange with the goal of promoting greater understanding among the people of China, the Caribbean and Latin America. To implement this intention, Beijing recently hosted the Latin America and Caribbean Music, Film and Art Exhibition Series organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Embassies of the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana and Suriname.

This year also bears witness to China’s presidency of the G20 Heads of State Summit slated to take place between September 4 and 5 in the country’s eastern province of Zhejiang’s capital city, Hangzhou.

Recent media reports highlight that China is dedicated to bolstering economic growth through its steadfast commitment to multilateralism. In keeping with this mandate, China has not only been working closely with the Global North, but has become a reliable development partner for many countries of the Global South.

China’s concerted implementation of the economic and industrialization plan of Africa by President Xi’s pledged $60 billion special fund during the 2015 Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), further attests to his country’s commitment to partnering with the developing world. And concerning the G20 Summit, China had revealed at the 100 days countdown to the meeting that she would convince the body of the world’s 20 largest economies to have as its target the development of about 123 poor countries. According to Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, at a media event in Beijing, there would be no peace in the world until poverty in those countries is defeated.

Leading up to the Summit in September, several Ministerial meetings have held involving the G20 Ministers of Tourism, Energy, Agriculture, Trade and Finance. In May, China and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) hosted the First World Conference on Tourism for Development with the overarching goal of reviewing the role of the industry in achieving the much discussed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This inaugural conference coincided with China’s National Tourism Day and the G20 Tourism Ministers’ Meeting themed “Sustainable Tourism – An Effective Tool for Inclusive Development.”

In his address, Secretary-General of the UNWTO, Taleb Rifai remarked that the tourism industry is not only the fastest growing but one of the “most relevant socio-economic sectors of our times. Accounting for 10% of the world’s GDP, 6% of global trade and one in 11 jobs … Tourism fosters economic growth, promotes inclusive development and encourages environmental preservation. Moreover, tourism can help us build a more tolerant and peaceful society through the millions of encounters that take place every day around the world.”

By 2030, the UNWTO expects the movement of approximately 1.8 billion tourists. During last year’s series of G20 meetings, Rifai acknowledged that tourism is particularly critical for developing countries as this industry serves as one of the main sources of wealth generation. Forty-nine Less Developed Countries (LDCs) collectively earned $18biillon from international tourism in 2013 alone.

In recent years, Chinese investors have become more aware of the market potential in the Caribbean Basin. Companies like China Harbour Engineering Company, Jiuquan Iron and Steel Group Company Ltd. (JISCO) and SINOPEC are among some of the top investors in the Caribbean. What the region needs now, are airline companies that are willing to invest in direct routes from major cities in China to key Caribbean capitals like Kingston, Nassau, Havana, St. George’s, Bridgetown, Port of Spain, Georgetown and Paramaribo. 

Several Caribbean governments recognize the importance of the tourism sector for many of our islands. As such Chinese nationals can travel to Jamaica, the Bahamas and Grenada without a visa for the first 30 days. These governments have indicated their willingness to work with Chinese investors and the relevant industry leaders to make the Caribbean a destination of choice.

In Jamaica for instance, it’s always the latest delight to dine at Usain Bolt’s Restaurant called Tracks and Records or plan a visit to the Bob Marley Museum—the birthplace of Reggae. Then visitors may hop over to the Bahamas’ magical kingdom of Atlantis; go scuba diving or swim with the dolphins in the pristine aqua marine waters that are particularly characteristic of the Bahamas.

As Don Cornish, Tourism Director at the Embassy of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas notes, the Caribbean is very keen on engaging China’s market.

“The Chinese visitor, invariably, is one of the highest spenders in the world, they are the kind of customers we want to have, because they reserve money for gifts for family and friends while identifying luxury goods that are available in a destination. These may be tax or duty free and could be a bargain basement in the country they visit. As such they will accumulate those goods in much greater quantities and at a greater cost than the American or the North American visitor.”

As the G20 summit edges closer we implore decision makers to place the tourism sector higher on the agenda and that China as an old ally, will think to include the Caribbean in its effort to support the concerns of poorer countries. Exploring sustainable tourism is in the best interest of both developed and developing countries. We can only hope that China will take an active role in voicing these concerns and leading the charge on behalf of its smaller, but no less important developing partners.

Cann is Jamaican and a PhD scholar of the Chinese government scholarship program at Communication University of China, Beijing ([email protected]


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Editor: Wu Chengliang,Bianji)

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