Minister Kamina Johnson Smith’s Comments at Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum on January 22


This week, the Second Ministerial Meeting of the Forum of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and China took place in Santiago, Chile. Here is the Statement from our Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith.

From this, one notes that Jamaica is an enthusiastic supporter of the One China policy and of the One Belt One Road policy of Mr. Xi Jinping, an ambitious effort to revive the old Silk Road trade routes…and more. One also notes that Jamaica is keen to hear more about Chinese support for infrastructure projects (more highways?) and simultaneously, support for measures to combat climate change as well as disaster risk reduction. Are these all comfortable bedfellows, I wonder?

I would also like to share with you two online articles: Here is one on the ongoing persecution of human rights lawyers in the People’s Republic of China. Another recently jailed human rights activist observed: “For those living under a dictatorship, being given the honorable label of one who “subverts state power” is the highest form of affirmation for a citizen.” The second article focuses on the Chinese Government forcing several large multinantionals (Marriott Hotels, Delta and others) to apologise publicly for listing Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet as countries on their websites. 

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Here is Minister Johnson Smith’s Statement at the CELAC-China Forum on January 22:

Your Excellency Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China,

Your Excellency Hugo Martínez, Minister of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador and Pro Tempore President of CELAC,

Your Excellency Ambassador Hugo Manuel, Ambassador of El Salvador to Chile, representing Hugo Martinez, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile,

Fellow Foreign Ministers of CELAC,

Representatives of the Government of the People’s Republic of China,

Ms. Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

Delegates,

Good afternoon.

It gives me great pleasure to be here with you on this auspicious occasion. I must thank the Government of the Republic of Chile for the warmth of its hospitality and the excellent arrangements it has put in place for our meeting.

I thank the Government of the People’s Republic of China for its dedication to strengthening and deepening the relations between China and CELAC. In addition, I thank the El Salvador Pro Tempore Presidency of CELAC for its efficient coordination of the preparations for this, the Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The First Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum, held in Beijing in 2015, provided a new opportunity for high-level political dialogue on a wide range of issues of mutual interest in the economic, social and political spheres, giving rise to the China-Latin American and Caribbean Cooperation Plan (2015-2019) as an important outcome document.

Today, we welcome the opportunity that this second staging of the China-CELAC Forum provides, to build on the 2015 outcomes and importantly, to forge even closer collaboration for the betterment of our peoples.  As we seek to strengthen our partnership of equality, mutual benefit and cooperation, as articulated in the Government of China’s recent “Policy Paper on Latin America and the Caribbean”, we welcome the promise of this new Policy and are encouraged by the declaration that, “despite the distance, China and Latin America and the Caribbean have a long history of friendship, and based on that remarkable journey, China is committed to building a new relationship with our region, and taking this partnership to new heights”. In that context, we are pleased to note that the Joint Action Plan of Cooperation, for 2019 to 2021, is designed to build on the achievements since the First Ministerial Meeting, while taking a more targeted approach to addressing the social and economic needs of our region. Indeed, there are clear connections between those objectives and the ones we collectively outlined in the Joint Action plan.

We wish to thank President Xi Jinping for his warm letter of congratulations to this Forum, and, on behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, reiterate heartiest congratulations on the successful hosting of the 19th National Congress last October.  We wish the Government and people of China every success following the conclusion of this important Congress and look forward to China’s continued contribution to global peace, security and development.

We also look forward to collaborating with China on the transformative Belt and Road Initiative which, it is anticipated, will connect markets across Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas and lead to development right across the region through a cooperative and inclusive strategy. Indeed, we welcome the invitation to ‘join hands and set sail towards a shared future for all.”

 Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Jamaica is pleased to have been among the first countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region to have established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, thereby adhering to a ‘One China’ policy. Despite our different sizes and significant distance, over the years, our two countries have witnessed the remarkable development and expansion of bilateral relations in the areas of trade and investment, infrastructure development, capacity building through scholarships and training, sports and culture, as well as institutional strengthening and technology transfer.

China has consistently demonstrated its commitment as a true friend of Jamaica and key development partner, contributing significantly to Jamaica’s economic growth and development within the framework of a dynamic and mutually beneficial economic and technical assistance programme, in which we proudly participate as partners. For this reason, Jamaica welcomes every opportunity to engage in discussions with China at a regional level, both between China and the Caribbean and China and CELAC.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Jamaica was an active participant in the Training Course for CELAC Countries on Accessing Chinese Funding in the Context of the CELAC-China Forum, hosted by Argentina last year. We welcomed the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience in accessing loans for infrastructure development from China, as an important development partner. We hope that in the implementation of this Initiative within our region, further discussions will be held on grant funding and financing for climate change, as well as the agreed approach to accessing funding for regional projects.

I speak of climate change because this is a matter which affects our entire region, as well as China, and which should be a priority on our global agenda. While it is the goal of the Caribbean to transform the sub-region into one that is resilient to climate change, we must all acknowledge that a united effort will produce more favourable results. Across Latin America and the Caribbean, we occupy more than 15 per cent of the earth’s surface and possess a substantial percentage of the most important non-renewable mineral reserves; one third of the fresh water reserves; the world’s largest reserves of arable land; the world’s biggest potential for food production and almost half of the world’s tropical forests. Disaster mitigation and building resilience to these risks must therefore, be a vital element of our cooperation strategy.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we seek to strengthen ties between CELAC and China, allow me to reaffirm the unwavering commitment of the Jamaican Government and people to the advancement of these relations through high-level meetings, on-going dialogue between our officials, as well as increased people-to-people exchanges.

In closing, I must again thank the Government of the People’s Republic of China for its solidarity with developing countries and dedication to the development of the region, and commend the Government and people of Chile on the excellent execution of this, the second China-CELAC Forum.

Thank you.

61 year-old human rights lawyer Li Yuhan, who has heart disease, was detained by Shenyang Public Security Bureau last October on charges that are unclear. Her family did not know where she was for three weeks. She defended another lawyer, Wang Yu, who was the first to be detained under a massive crackdown on human rights lawyers by the Chinese Government. (Photo: China Change)

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