Trinidad PM: China offers concessionary loans to 9 regional nations totalling $3 billion

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – China’s president has offered concessionary loans to nine Caribbean countries totalling some $3 billion, Trinidad & Tobago’s prime minister said Sunday.

Details of the offer were not immediately disclosed after a Sunday luncheon, but Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told reporters that the loans would be earmarked for infrastructure and development projects across the Caribbean.

“We really welcomed that generosity,” she said.

China’s ambassador to Trinidad & Tobago, Hung Caio Ming, was also unable to say what specific projects the loans are intended to finance but he said such loans from Beijing are “something that will be increased in the future.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his delegation departed Sunday after meeting with various Caribbean leaders in the capital of Port-of-Spain over the weekend. Trinidad, a leading supplier of natural gas, was the first stop of a four-country trip in the region for Xi. He headed for Costa Rica, and also planned stops in Mexico and the United States.

On Saturday, Xi said China always views its relationship with the Caribbean “from a strategic perspective and we are committed to the building of a comprehensive and co-operative partnership.”

His visit to Trinidad, a twin-island nation off Venezuela’s coast, came a few days after U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden met with political leaders from across the Caribbean to sign a trade agreement and discuss a range of security, investment and energy issues.

During his stay in Trinidad, Xi also announced that China was awarding a $250 million loan to build a children’s hospital. He signed a memorandum of understanding to advance co-operation in energy, mineral and infrastructure development, among other areas.

Trinidad has long been a major exporter of natural gas to the United States, but its sales have dropped as U.S. domestic fuel production surges due to new exploration and drilling technology.

In recent years, China has stepped up its investments across the region. The Asian economic giant has lent and invested tens of billions of dollars in Latin American countries for a guaranteed flow of commodities. Latin America now imports more from China than it does from the European Union, according to the U.N. economic agency for the region.