China’s Xi Offers Caribbean Nations $3 Billion in Loans

China’s President Xi Jinping promised more than $3 billion in loans to 10 Caribbean nations and Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago’s prime minister said, ahead of a summit in California with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Xi pledged about $296 million in loans to help Costa Rica expand a key highway as part of 13 accords signed with President Laura Chinchilla yesterday. After meeting with leaders from 10 Caribbean nations in Trinidad on June 2, he promised about $3 billion in loans, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said. Further details weren’t disclosed, government spokesman Dennis McComie said in an interview. There was no immediate confirmation of the plans from the Chinese government.

Xi arrived in Trinidad on May 31, three days after a visit to the island by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who was on a regional tour of his own that underscored the competition for influence in Latin America by the world’s two biggest economies. He departs Costa Rica for Mexico today and will meet Obama in California on June 7.

The Caribbean loans may provide some welcome relief to island nations, most of whom have seen growth slow and debt levels jump as a result of increased spending and lower tourism receipts during the global economic slump. Among the island economies, only the Bahamas is forecast to grow more than 1.5 percent this year compared with 4 percent for Latin America, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Mexico Visit

In Mexico today, Xi will meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto about one month after Obama visited the country.

China surpassed Mexico in terms of its market share in the U.S. after joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, accounting for 19 percent of goods sold last year, up from 8 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. That compares with Mexico’s 12 percent share, barely changed from 2000.

The two leaders will give a joint statement at 6:15 p.m. local time, according to a statement from Mexico’s presidential palace. Tomorrow, Xi meets with business leaders over lunch and on June 6 he’ll visit the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula.

During his visit to Trinidad, the largest supplier of energy in the Caribbean, Xi announced that China will provide funding and workers to help build a children’s hospital on the island. Persad-Bissessar welcomed the Chinese support, saying the project was “very close to my heart.” She also pledged to visit China later this year and open Trinidad’s first Embassy in Beijing 39 years after the two countries established diplomatic ties.

“The Chinese people will never forget that Trinidad and Tobago cast its vote in favor of restoring the lawful seat of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations in 1971,” Xi said after talks June 1 with Persad-Bissessar.

While in Port of Spain, Biden discussed regional economic and security concerns with 15 Caribbean leaders. The U.S. has committed $200 million to help Caribbean governments fight drug trafficking through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative.

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