China increases influence in region. Nurses, military boats for Trinidad
Bert Wilkinson | 2/27/2014, 10 a.m.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar is the latest in a string of Caribbean Community heads of government to have made the political pilgrimage to China in recent years to sign off on bilateral agreements ranging from military assistance to concession aid loans to trade and investment deals as China increases its influence in the region.
The Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister is currently on a state visit to China with a laundry list of issues the oil and gas-rich twin-island republic wants assistance with.
Chief among them is the very urgent request from authorities in Port of Spain for the island to buy a Chinese-made long range military vessel to help the coastguard better patrol its border particularly with nearby Venezuela. Intelligence officials say many of the weapons used in gangster and other serious crimes in Trinidad come from Venezuela as its coast is only seven miles from Trinidad and separated by the frequently used Gulf of Paria waterway.
They also contend that tons of cocaine and marijuana also come from this route so a long range vessel will certainly improve the capacity of the coastguard to better patrol the area and keep out smugglers.
"National Security remains the number one priority of my government right now." Persad-Bissessar pleaded, asking that the vessel be made available to T&T “right away and in the shortest possible time. We are here today to further the partnership we started 40 years ago. I am hoping that you could use your good office to drive these projects.”
She even said that the vessel could be sent on its way to the island as soon as it is ready while teams from the two sides could sit down and work out financing details later.
The island has been recording an average of 400 murders annually making it one of the capitals with the highest proportion of such crimes in the world.
Meanwhile, as she visits the Forbidden City and other historical sites in China, she and her team are also seeking assistance with a string of other projects including the construction and designs for six new economic zones on the island, the development of a transshipment port and dry dock facility in South Trinidad, construction of two new modern hospitals and equipment for extracting greater volumes of material from its world famous pitch lake.
Her office said in a release that the delegation wants” early processing of a loan agreement with the Exim Bank so these projects can be expedited.”
While the visit and talks are ongoing, authorities will re-commission a T&T embassy in Trinidad, while an agreement for at least 100 doctors and nurses from China to help with a dire shortage there will be signed during the visit.