By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The Government is targeting agriculture and fisheries partnerships with China, a Cabinet minister has disclosed, with $24m now available for local development projects.
Michael Halkitis, minister for economic affairs, told at a webinar organised by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce that bilateral trade with China had decreased by 18.7 percent year-over-year in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet he added: “In 2020 alone, even amid a global pandemic, imports from China topped a total value of $279m, while exports to China totalled $73m.
“The Government of the Bahamas entered into a $12m bilateral agreement with the government of the People’s Republic of China in July 2021, as a commitment to provide funds for further local development projects. That agreement was the second of its kind, as a previous agreement was made in 2019 to provide $12m in funding.
“There’s a total of $24m in funding now available for national development projects. Last year, bilateral trade between the Bahamas and China was valued at $353m. Due to the pandemic, this number was down 18.7 percent compared to 2019.”
China’s largest investments in The Bahamas include the $4.2bn Baha Mar resort, Hutchison Whampoa’s various Freeport assets valued at over $1bn-plus, and China Construction America’s (CCA) development of the $200m Pointe project and ownership of the British Colonial Hilton.
Suggesting there are a “treasure trove” of opportunities for Bahamians in China, Mr Halkitis said the Government is seeking new areas of co-operation with China in agriculture and fisheries. “There’s also room to co-operate in the fields of infrastructure development, renewable energy, climate change and disaster mitigation,” he added.
Chester Cooper, deputy prime minister, also hailed China’s efforts in providing an “arena” where “scores” of Bahamian businesses can get a fresh start in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also minister for tourism, investments and aviation, he said: “In the wake of a waning pandemic you have created an arena for the Bahamas in China where scores of businesses can get a fresh start to chart a new and rewarding path through economic renewal and stability.
“I want to emphasise that invitation for more Chinese investments in the islands of The Bahamas, ideally through joint ventures and our commitment to lower trade barriers between China and The Bahamas as well as expanding educational and training opportunities and, of course, the other way around.”
The Bahamas is also working on increasing airlift from China to boost its tourism industry and investments.