Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda the Hon. Gaston A. Browne met with Premier Li of the People’s Republic of China and members of his Government
On Tuesday 26th August, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda the Hon. Gaston A. Browne met with Premier Li of the People’s Republic of China and members of his Government to deepen the ties between both countries. We are pleased to present the text of the Prime Minister’s Remarks during the discussions:
Hon. Gaston A. Browne
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda
Meeting with H.E. Li Keqiang
Premier of the People’s Republic of China
26th August 2014
I am pleased to have been afforded the opportunity to meet with the leadership of the People’s Republic of China so early in my term as Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda.
I am hopeful that my visit will help to strengthen the bilateral relations that have existed between our two countries for thirty-one years.
I wish at the outset to express my sincere gratitude to your Government for the kind invitation for me to make an official visit to the People’s Republic of China, and in this regard I am especially mindful of the fact that my administration has been in office for only a short time.
My Government, which took office in June of this year, intends to continue and enhance the strong friendship policy with the People’s Republic of China. This is a central element of our foreign policy.
This policy, firmly established by our Father of the Nation Sir Vere Cornwall Bird in 1982, is a guiding principle and commits Antigua and Barbuda in support of a One-China policy.
Overview of Bilateral Relations
Our two countries have enjoyed warm and friendly relations since their inception in 1983, and each year we seek to strengthen our friendship and expand our cooperation.
The People’s Republic of China has been generous to Antigua and Barbuda over the years and has provided critical support to the development efforts of the Government.
It would be impossible to recount the many gestures of friendship undertaken by China during the course of our relations. Our cooperation has included infrastructure development, expansion of public utilities, agriculture, economic and trade cooperation, education, culture and health.
At the conclusion of our session here, we are to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which is a further step in the building of our cooperative relationship.
I express to you the deep appreciation of the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda for assisting us to address challenges that we have in the critical area of climate change.
There have been many people-to-people contacts between both sides, including exchanges at the highest levels of Government. It is our view that we have a mature and developing relationship that has further great potential.
In addition to our burgeoning bilateral relations, there are initiatives at the regional level involving the People’s Republic of China, including the China/Caribbean Trade and Economic Forum, that signal a willingness between both sides to deepen their cooperation and to expand economic growth.
As the current chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), I undertake to pursue these initiatives with vigour during my term, seeking to capture every opportunity for closer cooperation between China and CARICOM.
In terms of international economic relations, there are many challenges facing a small state such as Antigua and Barbuda, and the situation has been exacerbated by the accompanying volatility and uncertainty of international markets.
Fiscal sustainability has become a strategic issue for my Government, and we are seeking innovative and meaningful solutions to the problem of development financing.
It is the overarching agenda of my party and my Government to set Antigua and Barbuda firmly on the path to economic development and prosperity, and to ensure that the fruits of this economic expansion are enjoyed by all citizens.
My own life experience as a child in a low-income family has taught me to value the concerns of ordinary people and to pay attention to the dreams they have for improving their lives.
We in Antigua and Barbuda value highly our friendly relations with the People’s Republic of China, and we ask China to join with us as a development partner in achieving our mandate.
For our part, we intend to adopt several initiatives which we believe can further strengthen our bilateral relations and bring understanding between our peoples.
My Government is building the enabling environment that will facilitate investment and economic growth. The globalized world economy provides us with many opportunities that can be harvested in collaboration with strategic partners.
The World Trade Organization (WTO), in its work programme, pays a lot of attention to reducing tariffs, eliminating bottlenecks and otherwise facilitating the free flow of goods for international trade.
We believe that equal attention needs to be paid to facilitating the free flow of people, for both business and pleasure.
It is therefore the decision of my Government to completely overhaul the current visa policy, and to eliminate the visa procedures with respect to citizens of the People’s Republic of China.
We consider that abolishing the visa requirement for Chinese citizens will stimulate tourism and business, as well as enhance people-to-people contact.
My Government also intends to establish a Friendship Association between the People’s Republic of China and Antigua and Barbuda, and to seek to have our Governor-General, Sir Rodney Williams, agree to serve as honorary patron of this Association.
Due to the generous offers of scholarships by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, we now have young Antiguans returning home who have graduated from Chinese universities.
There are currently seventy-five (75) scholarship students from Antigua and Barbuda studying at universities in China, and another fifteen (15) will join them shortly for the new semester.
As the leader of a country without a university of its own, I acknowledge on behalf of all Antiguans and Barbudans, and especially on behalf of the young people of our nation, this vital contribution to our development being made by the People’s Republic of China.
To further encourage cultural cooperation, my Government wishes to host Chinese-language courses in Antigua that will be available to ordinary citizens. We would also wish to discuss with China innovative ways in which we could, in the future, host a Confucius Institute in Antigua and Barbuda.
My Government has several proposals that we would wish to pursue with the People’s Republic of China, including proposals relating to attracting investment into Antigua and Barbuda; the rejuvenation of the manufacturing industry; infrastructure development; facilitating air travel between China and Antigua and Barbuda; and the stimulation of the small business sector.
A key to attracting investment into Antigua and Barbuda is the existence of world-class infrastructure, and in this regard we seek the assistance of the People’s Republic of China in financing our Deep-Water Harbour project.
We believe that these projects will add value to our to our national economy and, at the same time, bring mutual benefits to all participants.
We look forward to being able to undertake discussions and conclude the necessary agreements for us to bring these proposals to fruition.
I had the privilege to represent the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at the recent China/CELAC Summit in Brasilia, and it is my view that the China/CELAC Forum is a positive development in world affairs.
I commend the vision and foresight of the leaders involved in this historic conference and I look forward, both as chairman of CARICOM and as Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, to working closely with member countries to advance the work established by the Forum.
We are keen to advance the technical work involved in establishing the new financial institutions associated with China/CELAC, as we believe that the articulated innovative approaches to development financing will address some of the key challenges faced by Antigua and Barbuda.
We are open to the idea that the Bank should be located in a small state, and of course we offer Antigua and Barbuda as the ideal location.
Regarding UN reform, Antigua and Barbuda is an advocate for greater transparency and efficiency in the UN system. We believe that greater participation by developing countries is needed if the UN is to achieve meaningful reform
Antigua and Barbuda is a strong supporter of the position of the People’s Republic of China regarding reform of the UN Security Council. We call for the expansion of small-state representation on the Council.
A new session of the United Nations General Assembly commences next month in New York. This is an opportunity for China and Antigua and Barbuda to strengthen our cooperation on international issues through dialogue and building consensus.
Our member states in CARICOM seek to harmonize their foreign policies and have joint positions on various UN issues that will come before the UN General Assembly and other UN bodies, including that of international candidacies.
The member states of CARICOM will be participating actively in this session, and the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda will have instructions to collaborate closely with the People’s Republic of China on the important international issues of concern, including climate change, UN reform and bringing a halt to the conflicts in Gaza, Iraq, Syria and other trouble-spots around the world.
A globalized world economy, along with modern information technology, has shrunk the distance between China and Antigua and Barbuda and has made our obvious differences in size less daunting.
Now is an opportunity in world affairs for states, especially developing countries, to move away from the constraining traditional structures of international finance and development.
Antigua and Barbuda will embrace the new opportunities that this globalized world offers.
We are proud to be associated with China’s growing global leadership.
Long live the Communist Party and the great nation of the People’s Republic of China!
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