2 FEBRUARY, 2005

Excellencies and Distinguished Guests:

It is certainly a distinct and singular honour for me, on this auspicious occasion, to lead The Bahamas delegation comprising the Honourable Leslie Miller, Minister for Trade and Industry, the Honourable Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Transport and Aviation, Mr. Julian Francis, Governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas, Mr. Michael Halkitis, Parliamentary Secretary and Chairman of the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation and other Government officials.

In the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the focus of the national leadership is on the efficient utilization of human and physical resources to create a just and prosperous society, with a higher standard of living and a higher per capita income than it now enjoys, and with lower levels of unemployment and poverty.  The vision is one where improved health care and enhanced educational opportunities would be available to all Bahamian citizens; and where basic human rights and fundamental individual freedoms would be guaranteed for all.

This path of social, political and economic development would urge The Bahamas away from chronic dependence on the former colonial powers and bring her into an inter-dependent relationship with new and emerging powers such as South Africa, India, Brazil, and the People’s Republic of China.

Approximately 25 year ago, China experienced a deliberate and conscious paradigm shift, with respect to the management of its economy, using sound scientific principles; and today, this initiative has resulted in the evolution of the world’s mot dynamic economy, which, in the foreseeable future, will grow from strength to strength and exert a profound and positive influence on global commercial activity.

It is at this juncture, ladies and gentlemen, that the paths of China and The Bahamas converge, as both countries set out in quest of unprecedented prosperity for their peoples.

In the context of the 21st century, this interdependence expresses itself in the form of cooperation in a wide field of interests, including trade, science, technology, education, health and human resource development.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1997, China and The Bahamas have signed cooperation agreements in the areas of maritime transportation, cultural interaction and the development of a sports complex.  And today, the signing of both the Guiding Framework for Trade Cooperation and the Memorandum of Understanding on Group Travel of Chinese Tourists to The Bahamas, are clear evidence of the continuing cooperation between us.

Further, I wish to highlight the strong business ties, at both the level of large investments and small and medium size enterprises, that have developed between China and The Bahamas in recent years.  Of special note is the participation of Chinese investors, to the tune of $1 billion, in the development of the container port in Freeport Grand Bahama and hotel facilities; and the people of Freeport look forward to the expansion of these business unterest in the near future.

Although our two countries differ greatly in geographic and demographic size, and despite the differences in culture, language and history, China and The Bahamas have found common ground and are both being impelled to the table as equals, to sketch out a program of cooperation that would be of mutual benefit.

The call for cooperation presents real challenges to the political and commercial leaders of China and The Bahamas.  Cooperation calls for sustained effort and untiring work and the will to understand the positions put forward by the other side; cooperation calls for a sincere desire to reach consensus and compromise; cooperation calls for unflagging mutual respect and a constant revision of the common good and shared goals.

This Forum marks the beginning of a new, productive phase in the economic development of the Caribbean, as new ingredients, in the form of Chinese commerce and investment, are now being added to the mix, at a time when so many of the traditional economic planks are disintegrating in the face of new trends in world trade.

So, today, I am confident that not only The Bahamas and China but also all the other sister Caribbean states that stand here today, are indeed able to rise to these challenges and build the infrastructure that would, for generations to come, promote cooperation for development.

Thank you.