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The loans will be made available through the state-run China Development Bank, China’s Vice Premier Wang Qishan told a meeting of Caribbean and Chinese officials in Port of Spain, capital of oil and gas producer Trinidad and Tobago.
“China cannot develop itself in isolation of the world and the world needs China for its development,” he said.
The financial help comes as many Caribbean countries struggle with stagnant economies hit by anemic growth in the United States and Europe, the traditional sources of investment and visitors for many of the region’s tourism-dependent states.
China’s wooing of the Caribbean is part of a global push by Beijing promoting loans and investment while seeking natural resources and political influence in the developing world from Africa to Latin America.
Wang said trade between China and the Caribbean had grown annually by 24 percent and reached $7.2 billion in 2010.
While the amount of fresh loans on offer to the region may be smaller than Chinese multibillion-dollar investment pitches in other places, such as Africa, it could potentially go a long way in many of the Caribbean’s fragile economies.
Some countries like Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas bear heavy debt loads, leaving little government money to forge ahead with infrastructure projects.
Terms of the loans and details of new projects were expected to be worked out during the two-day meeting between Caribbean and Chinese officials that began on Monday in Port of Spain.
Resorts, Ports, Roads, Refineries
China has stepped up its investments in the region in recent years.
The Chinese are already involved in a $2.6 billion resort project in the Bahamas which broke ground earlier this year. The Baha Mar project — one of the largest tourism developments in the Caribbean — is being financed and built by two Chinese government-owned entities.
China is also reportedly planning to invest more than $400 million to revive a stalled beachfront resort project in the Dominican Republic.
In Jamaica, the Chinese have invested more than $1 billion in one of the country’s leading ports, a conference center, highway projects and a cricket stadium.
“China has become an important source of foreign direct investment for us,” Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said recently.
Cuba is China’s biggest trading partner in the Caribbean, and Cuban Vice Minister of Trade and Investment Orlando Hernandez Guillen praised the Chinese on Monday as a helpful ally to less developed countries.
“China represents hope for the poorest nations of the world and its impressive development springs from its own resources … not exploiting or pillaging other nations,” he said.
China’s involvement in Cuba’s economy is increasingly evident, with Chinese-made goods filling the stores and Chinese buses and cars a common sight on Cuban roads.
A unit of China National Petroleum is participating in a $6 billion project to expand and upgrade an oil refinery in Cienfuegos on Cuba’s southern coast, with plans including construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal.
China buys nickel, sugar and other products from Cuba and the two nations jointly produce pharmaceuticals.