**The Hon. Zhivargo Laing
Minister of State for Finance**
Minister Laing has returned home after heading a Bahamian delegation to the **China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum** held in Xiamen, China. The overall objective of the forum was the strengthening of China’s relationship with the region.
China has a population of some 1.3 billion, one of the world’s fastest growing economies and an estimated 40 million of its citizens who travel abroad. That being said, there is enormous potential for The Bahamas to tap into the tourism possibilities of China, the Minister said on his return. China has given The Bahamas some assistance in that regard by designating the country an “Approved Travel Destination.”
In a press interview at the Ministry of Finance, the Minister pointed out that an immediate benefit for The Bahamas in its relations with China is the building of a national stadium, with benefits in the long-term involving the extent to which Bahamians are interested in accessing the Chinese market for training opportunities, and the export of Bahamian products.
*“One thing certain is that China is a force to be reckoned with; it is also a country in political and economic transition,”* he said. *“We should be looking at China as we should be looking at other countries, including India, to see the extent to which there are lessons which can be learnt.”*
The Minister urged Bahamians to study China, speak the language, understand its culture and exploit some of the vast economic opportunities that exist there.
Direct foreign investment, tourism and trade opportunities between The Bahamas and China topped the agenda during bilateral discussions between Bahamian and Chinese officials during the trip. Minister Laing led the Bahamian delegation during these talks, while Mr. Chen Jian, Vice Minister of Commerce in the Ministry of Commerce, headed the Chinese delegates.
The delegation acknowledged that China’s significant economic growth could be a “boon” for The Bahamas, insofar as tourism, trade and direct foreign investment opportunities are concerned. Specifically discussed was the trade deficit between The Bahamas and China and the Chinese delegates reportedly expressed their interest in narrowing that trade deficit while seeking to encourage opportunities for Bahamian products and services to be promoted and exported to China.
Minister Laing said there is a “significant” number of Chinese who have become or are now becoming high net worth individuals as a result of the country’s economic growth.
The Minister was accompanied to China by officials from the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources and the Office of the Prime Minister. Additionally, representatives of the private sector, including the Bahamas Financial Services Board, were involved in the parallel private sector forums.
A release from the Government prior to travel pointed out that the purpose of the China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum was to deepen the cooperation between China and the Caribbean in six key areas — trade, investment, agriculture, tourism and logistics, finance and human resources. And, that a policy of The Bahamas Government is to form strategic partnerships with the Caribbean and the international community.