China President Xi Jinping makes first ever visit to Trinidad
China's President Xi Jinping, centre, is welcomed by Trinidad & Tobago's Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, waving, to the Diplomatic Center in St. Ann's, Trinidad, Saturday, June 1, 2013. (AP / Anthony Harris)
PORT-OF-SPAIN -- Chinese President Xi Jinping met for the first time with officials in Trinidad and Tobago Saturday on the first stop of a four-country regional tour.
In a news conference, Xi announced that China was awarding Trinidad a $250 million loan to build a children's hospital. He also said he and Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had signed a memorandum of understanding to co-operate on a range of issues.
"We both agree to actively advance co-operation in key areas of energy, minerals and infrastructure development and also to advance our co-operation in new energy, telecommunications and agriculture," Xi told reporters after he and Persad-Bissessar met in her office.
Persad-Bissessar said Trinidad views China "as a very key business partner and a potential new market for our energy products and for alternative energy research." She added that Xi agreed to send the Caribbean 100 volunteer medical professionals over the next three years.
Officials also announced Trinidad plans to open an embassy in Beijing later this year, and Persad-Bissessar will make an official visit to China in November. A Chinese waterproofing firm named Beijing Oriental Yuhong also signed an agreement with the Lake Asphalt company of Trinidad to build a plant to produce roofing and other waterproofing products.
Xi arrived in Port-of-Spain late Friday for his first state visit to the twin-island nation, a leading supplier of natural gas. It was also the first ever visit for a Chinese president.
During his stay, he's also expected to meet with leaders from other Caribbean countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Suriname and Jamaica.
China and Trinidad have had diplomatic ties for almost 40 years, and Trinidad is a major trading partner in the Caribbean for China.
That trade has grown significantly, from $174 million in exports and imports in 2006 to $450 million last year, according to an International Monetary Fund database.
Xi is also travelling to Mexico, Costa Rica and the U.S. on this trip.