China’s Top Diplomat signs $6.7M agreement with St. Lucia

ST. LUCIA – A visit to Saint Lucia by the highest ranking Chinese government official ever to visit the island has ended with St. Lucia and the Peoples Republic of China signing a new EC $6.7 million technical and economic cooperation agreement.

The agreement was signed at the Sandals Regency by Prime Minister D. Kenny Anthony and the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister, Li Zhaoxing, during the latter’s one-day official visit to St. Lucia last Sunday, September 24.

Mr. Zhaoxing, who was accompanied by an eight-member delegation, arrived in Saint Lucia by chartered flight on Sunday afternoon from New York. It was the first stop on his way home from the United Nations, where he attended and addressed the 2006 UN General Assembly.

He was met on arrival by Labor Minister Velon John (in the absence of Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Petrus Compton, who was unavoidably still at the General Assembly in New York and yet to speak.)

The visiting Chinese official and his entourage, accompanied by the Ambassador of China to Saint Lucia, Hu Guaming, kicked off their visit with a meeting with the Prime Minister during which they exchanged pleasantries, engaged in bilateral discussions on issues of mutual interest and affixed their signatures to the technical and economic cooperation agreement.

Under the agreement signed at the Sandals Regency, China commits itself to advancing the 20 million yuan ($6.7 million) for projects which are to be agreed upon and implemented in St. Lucia.

Addressing Sunday’s signing ceremony, Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony said the island’s nine-year relationship with the People’s Republic of China “has helped to change lives in St. Lucia and has made a vital and clear difference in the development of the country.”

Speaking on the future of the relationship between the two countries, he said: “I too look forward to deepening ties with the People’s Republic of China, not only in the technical affairs, not only in the political affairs, but, more importantly, between our peoples, whether it be reflected in culture or be reflected in exchanges between our people over time.”

Prime Minister Anthony also commented on the Taiwan issue. He said: “The policy of recognizing Taiwan is not only a bankrupt policy, but it is contrary to the appropriate resolution of the United Nations”. He noted that only two CARICOM member-states maintain relations with Taiwan today.

The Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister, for his part, thanked the Prime Minister and the Government of Saint Lucia for the country’s support for China and their mutual support for specific international issues. He also expressed his government’s satisfaction with his country’s nine-year relationship with St. Lucia, which began on September 1, 1997.

The highest ranking diplomat in China told the Saint Lucia Prime Minister: “The government of China is ready and willing to work with you to further enhance our bi-lateral cooperation and to intensify our efforts to have an even closer coordination and cooperation on major international and regional issues.”

He said “Saint Lucia’s smaller size does not matter to China” and referred to the UN Charter, “which says in its very first line of its very first paragraph that all nations are equal despite size or population.”

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties with China, St. Lucia has benefited from the construction of a Free Zone and a National Stadium in Vieux Fort.

A new and modern Psychiatric Hospital is currently being built along the Millennium Highway by the Chinese, which will be part of a new hospital complex including a new national general hospital being funded by the European Union (EU).

A new National Cultural Complex is also to be built here by the Chinese, once the new hospital is completed.

Chinese companies are also engaged in construction projects here – such as building schools and hospitals — while an increasing number of private sector businesses are starting to trade with Chinese companies.

Since St. Lucia severed ties with the Republic of China on Taiwan nine years ago to commence relations with Beijing, several other countries in the region have also established diplomatic relations with China. These include the Commonwealth of Dominica and Grenada, which were the latest to switch ties from Taipei to Beijing.

Today, among CARICOM member-states, only Belize, St Kitts and Nevis and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines still maintain relations with Taiwan.

As part of his inaugural trip to St. Lucia, Mr. Zhaoxing paid a courtesy call on Governor General Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy on Monday morning.

The Chinese Minister also met with Saint Lucia’s Minister for Commerce, Investment, Consumer Affairs and Tourism, Mr. Philip J Pierre.

China’s top diplomat headed to Antigua and Barbuda, his only other stop before returning home.

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