Jamaica is on the cusp of reaping the benefits of expanded relations with China after yesterday’s signing of a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) set to be the launching pad of ramped up investment and trade between the two Nations.

First announced in 2013, Beijing has touted the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as an international development strategy through which China seeks to leverage partnerships in a build out of its economic and geopolitical power.

April 11, 2019, marks the Official start of a new era for China and Jamaica as the Caribbean Country joins China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two countries was signed by Tian Qi, China’s Ambassador to Jamaica and Kamina Johnson-Smith, Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica, Tian Qi expressed that the Belt and Road Initiative has obtained fruitful achievements in the six years since its launch in 2013.

He hoped that both parties can focus on development, improve the cooperation level and fulfil the sustainable development goals in the 2030 Agenda, better-promoting connections between China and Caribbean countries in policy, infrastructure, trade, finance, and people-to-people exchanges.

FM Kamina Johnson-Smith & Ambassador Tian Qi
Photo: Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson-Smith with Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica, Tian Qi.

The strong cooperation between two countries in recent years has brought Jamaican people real benefits and Jamaica is grateful for that, said Kamina Johnson-Smith. The signing of MOU would open a new era of friendly relations between the two countries.

Over the past decade, Sino-Jamaican relations have warmed, leading to billions of dollars in investment in road construction, sugar and bauxite production, as well as grants and aid.

Jamaica currently owes China $79 billion, which represents about four per cent of the Government’s $2-trillion debt. Private-sector entities have also tapped Chinese advantage in economies of scale in major high-rise construction.

The Chinese have done much of the heavy lifting in major infrastructure projects, through China Harbour Engineering Company, spearheading cross-island road-network development from the Legacy Projects of Kingston in the east to the Ferris to Mackfield initiative of Westmoreland in the west.

After completing the North-South Highway, the South Coast Highway and Montego Bay bypass are next on the Chinese agenda. Ambassador Qi noted that the soon-to-be-constructed 220-bed Western Children’s Hospital in Montego Bay was also a symbol of deepening integration.

Also known as the One Belt One Road, the BRI is the Chinese government’s 21st-century spin on the ancient maritime silk route, promoting infrastructure development and investments in 152 countries and international organisations in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Middle East, and Africa.

Jamaica will further take advantage of historic development opportunities in China, better cooperate with China’s development strategy, and carry out mutually-beneficial cooperation at a higher level, according to Jamaica’s Minister.

She believed that with joint efforts between China and the Caribbean area, the Belt and Road must yield more fruitful results, helping to achieve mutual benefits and common development between China, Jamaica as well as other Caribbean countries.