Diplomacy Continued from Page 8 Meanwhile, bilateral trade has blossomed from $1 million a year in the early days of diplomatic ties to $147 million in 2011 and $226 million last year, though Chinese exports to Guyana last year dwarfed Guyanese shipments to China by more than five to one. “China is a huge country, while Guyana is very small. When I look at trade figures, I can see we’re not exporting a lot,” said Rodrigues-Birkett. “We certainly should look at how we can export more to China.” Adds Zhang: “The Chinese and Guyanese economies are highly complementary, and our economic cooperation has delivered tangible benefits to our two peoples.” Among the biggest Chinese projects in Guyana are: • The Guyana International Conference Centre, a Chinese-built architectural landmark in the district of Liliendaal, adjacent to the new Caricom Secretariat building. •Georgetown’s new 160-room, $58 million Marriott Hotel, being built by Shanghai Construction Engineering. •Expansion of Cheddi Jagan International Airport, headed by China Harbour Engineering and financed largely through a $130 million loan from China’s Export-Import Bank. • The proposed Amaila Falls hydropower dam, to be carried out by China Railway First Group, based in Xian. At $835 million, this ranks as the largest single infrastructure project in Guyanese history.
Illustration: Armando Portela
Like China, the Republic of Cuba last year also celebrated 40 years of diplomatic relations with Guyana. The presence of hundreds of Cuban doctors working in clinics and hospitals throughout Guyana has earned the Caribbean island widespread acclaim; in fact, Guyana’s embrace of Fidel and Raúl Castro is one of the few foreign policy issues that has divided Georgetown and Washington over the years. “Cuba has been kind to everyone in my view. For a country suffering under an economic blockade, being able to give scholarships to medical students in over 100 countries has to be a really large feat,” said Rodrigues-Birkett. “But our relationship should not be one where we just receive from Cuba. I think we need to look at what more we can do with Cuba in terms of trade. Hopefully in the not-so-distant future, Cuba’s minister of trade will visit Guyana to see where we can work together.” Also crucial to Guyana’s future is neighboring Brazil, which the foreign minister points out now ranks as the world’s sixth-largest economy. During his December 2010 official visit to Georgetown, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was awarded the Order of Excellence, Guyana’s highest honor. The two countries are negotiating the construction of a road from Lethem — on Guyana’s border with Brazil — to Georgetown, which would give Brazil a land route to the Caribbean for the first time. The two countries are already connected by broadband fiberoptic cable, and even more importantly are negotiating Brazilian participation in the construction of a hydroelectric dam and transmission lines that would help meet Guyana’s growing energy needs. The Guyanese government also maintains friendly relations with neighboring Venezuela, despite a lingering border dispute with Caracas. Nevertheless, during the 14-year rule of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who died in early March, bilateral economic ties flourished. “Today, we have very good relations, and for the first time we’re selling rice to Venezuela,” said the foreign minister. “As with all of our neighbors, we’re trying to look at what brings us together rather than what sets us apart.”
April • May 2013