Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) held talks on the Asian giant’s energy needs with leaders of Trinidad and Tobago, as he prepared to wrap up his first stop on a regional tour yesterday.
“We both agree to actively advance cooperation in key areas such as infrastructure development, energy and minerals, and also to continue to advance our cooperation in new areas of mutual and beneficial cooperation such as agriculture, telecommunications and new energy,” Xi told reporters after talks with Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona.
“Today is a historical day for us,” Persad-Bissessar said, hailing this landmark first visit by a Chinese president to her Caribbean nation of 1.3 million, a former British colony just off Venezuela’s coast.
She stressed that China was a “key business partner and potential new market” that was increasingly involved in Trinidad’s energy sector.
“Today we have signed a number of agreements with China. In this regard, we seek to deepen bilateral collaboration in the areas of trade and investment, energy, technical cooperation and cultural exchanges,” Persad-Bissessar added.
Trinidad, which has vast oil resources as well as natural gas, earns 40 percent of its income from the energy sector, which makes up 80 percent of its exports, according to government data.
Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Energy Kevin Ramnarine said that energy cooperation could be a boon to both nations, noting that China’s dependence on energy is “growing as their economy grows.”
China is the largest consumer of energy. Most of that energy in China comes from one source, coal.
“Coal, as you know, is not the cleanest fuel and this has impacted on the environment in China,” Ramnarine said on Friday. “There is a strategy in China to move the country away from coal and toward [cleaner] natural gas.”
Xi, who arrived on the first leg of a Latin America and Caribbean tour aiming to strengthen Beijing’s trade ties in the region, heads to Costa Rica and Mexico, ahead of a summit with US President Barack Obama in California on Saturday and Sunday.
His visit to Trinidad follows a trip to Port of Spain on Monday last week by US Vice President Joe Biden, who attended a summit with Caribbean leaders. Xi was scheduled to leave Trinidad yesterday. China’s trade ties with Latin America have surged in recent years as the world’s second-biggest economy taps into the region’s mineral and oil wealth to fuel growth.
Xi — who took office in March in a once-in-a-decade power transfer in Beijing — said ahead of the trip that he had “full confidence in the prospects of China-Latin America relations.”