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Premier Li Keqiang pledges aid to Caribbean nation

Zhao Yinan and Mo Jingxi
Updated: Aug 27,2014 10:02 AM     China Daily

Premier Li Keqiang and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne hold talks at the Great Hall of People in Beijing on Aug 26, 2014.[Photo/Xinhua]

Premier Li Keqiang and his Antigua and Barbuda counterpart, Gaston Browne, vowed to seek more common ground in economic cooperation and broader mutual support on international affairs.

Li and Browne met for an hour in Beijing on Aug 26 and agreed to expand cooperation in clean energy, agriculture, tourism, education and healthcare. Li said China will also help in the construction of highways, airports and ports in the Caribbean country.

Li said China has also agreed to provide financial aid, goods and no-interest loans to Antigua and Barbuda. The country’s economy has been struggling since the 2008 financial crisis and is $1 billion in debt, which is roughly equivalent to its annual GDP.

Li said he understands that battling climate change is one of the twin-island country’s core interests and that China has managed to reduce its own carbon emissions by 5 percent in the first half of this year.

Premier Li Keqiang and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne hold talks at the Great Hall of People in Beijing on Aug 26, 2014.[Photo/Xinhua]

“We understand the island nations such as Antigua and Barbuda on that regard, and we will provide necessary assistance to help you cope with climate change and protect the interests of developing countries,” Li said to Browne.

The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda said relations with China are “central” to his country’s foreign policy. He added that he is pleased to have made an official visit two months after stepping into office.

In a show of respect for China, Antigua and Barbuda decided to make Aug 6 its National Mourning Day to honor the victims of the earthquake that struck Ludian in Yunnan province.

The twin-island nation has a population of 90,000 and is among the smallest countries in the world in terms of land mass. Later this week, Browne will head to Nanjing, Jiangsu province, to attend the closing ceremony of the second Summer Youth Olympic Games. There he will meet with government officials and investors in Shandong province.

Shen Zhiliang, head of the foreign ministry’s department of Latin American and Caribbean affairs, said the two leaders have had a “deep and thorough” exchange on bilateral relations and international affairs.

Premier Li Keqiang and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne hold talks at the Great Hall of People in Beijing on Aug 26, 2014.[Photo/China News Service]

Antigua and Barbuda currently holds the rotating presidency of the Caribbean Community, one of the major forces in boosting China’s relations with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. The body’s relations with China have developed rapidly as China actively expands its influence among Latin American countries.

Xu Yicong, a researcher at the China Foundation for International Studies and the former Chinese ambassador to Cuba, said the Caribbean country has contributed to the establishment of the China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Cooperation Forum, and will continue to play a vital role in deepening cooperation between China and these countries.

Liu Yuqin, former Chinese ambassador to Cuba and to Chile, said Browne’s visit to China shows the country’s willingness to develop its relationship with Beijing.

Premier Li Keqiang and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne hold talks at the Great Hall of People in Beijing on Aug 26, 2014.[Photo/China News Service]

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