In a recent exclusive interview with Beijing Review reporter Li Xiaoyang, Paulette Bethel, Ambassador of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to China, shared her views on China-Bahamas relations. Edited excerpts from their conversation follow:
Beijing Review: Could you introduce major fields of cooperation between China and The Bahamas?
Paulette Bethel: Since the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and the People's Republic of China established diplomatic relations [in July 1973], the bilateral relationship has been growing as mutual understanding increases through various cooperation and partnership undertakings in culture, trade, health and other areas of mutual concern and interest.
Much of The Bahamas' engagement with China is structured through memorandums of understanding and agreements on infrastructural development, agricultural assistance and cooperation, as well as educational and skills-based opportunities. Bahamian youth and technical officers in a number of government ministries and departments have benefited from technical assistance programs and scholarships offered by China.
The Bahamas appreciates and welcomes the technical and other assistance extended by China in the aftermath of natural disasters and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Located in Zhejiang Province, the city of Yiwu is home to the world's largest wholesale market for consumer goods. There is significant trade from Yiwu to The Bahamas in products including toys, sports equipment and household appliances. The municipal government of Yiwu indicates that it looks forward to using its foreign trade platforms to facilitate Bahamian fishery products and rum entering the Chinese market, and supports Yiwu enterprises to explore the Bahamian market.
Where does The Bahamas seek further cooperation with China?
The Bahamas, like other small island developing states, is facing a severe challenge from climate change, which threatens its survival, largely because of rising sea levels. Overall, both The Bahamas and China have stressed the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly as they relate to agricultural development, protection and preservation of the environment and ecosystem, and the further development of the economy for the benefit of the people.
In addition to climate resilience, The Bahamas looks to partner with China on various agricultural, educational and technical cooperation undertakings. We acknowledge China's advanced technological capabilities in areas such the digital economy and solar power.
The Bahamas is expanding its digital economy space and continues to find ways to digitalize its services for improving the process stream and overall user experience, and so the benefit of possible partnerships with China in these areas will be explored for the mutual benefit of all concerned.
Tourism is another highlight in bilateral exchanges. As a prime tourist destination in the Caribbean region, tourism is a pillar industry of the Bahamian economy. The sector, which includes related construction and retail, accounts for 60 percent of the country's GDP, and employs about half of its labor force.
Visas are not required for Chinese nationals to travel to The Bahamas and we look forward to welcoming many visitors from China. Efforts are currently underway to further facilitate travel to The Bahamas by Chinese nationals through the provision of more direct air services between the two countries.
How should Chinese and Bahamian enterprises and institutions further cooperation?
Specific areas of collaboration between Chinese and Bahamian enterprises and institutions include the digital economy, agricultural development, agribusiness and agri-technology.
Chinese enterprises are welcome to explore the Bahamian market within the parameters set out in our laws and regulations. Bahamian enterprises, including those of marine sports such as cave diving and scuba diving, need to make them more attractive to Chinese visitors.
The two countries should also promote university-to-university exchanges to share experiences, research outcomes and skills in the areas of marine science, agriculture, the environment and sustainable development, shipping and logistics.
The Bahamas has been making efforts to expand its capacity to produce solar energy and reduce its dependency on coal-based power generation, another undertaking that provides room for collaboration with China. The two countries need to explore collaborative activities in the areas of carbon credit schemes and low-carbon development, which could be beneficial to both countries in meeting their respective carbon emission reduction goals.
Copyedited by G.P. Wilson
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