Local manufacturers invite governments to investigate China syndrome!

For several years now local businesspeople, big and small, have grumbled mainly under their breath about unfair, if not downright illegal, competition from what they say is a growing Chinese
commercial sector in Saint Lucia. And yet there has been no obvious reaction by the authorities. Not from the China-friendly Kenny Anthony government of 1997-2006 and not by the 2006-2011 John Compton-Stephenson King administrations that severed diplomatic connections with Mainland China in favor of the People’s Republic of China (Taiwan) soon after taking office.
Not even the Chamber of Commerce and SLISBA have reacted publicly to suggestions that undocumented Chinese personnel were operating various businesses in Saint Lucia. Perhaps the official silence might be blamed on the fact that the complaints have largely been anonymous, whether from unidentified callers to Newsspin or from pseudonymous contributors to the letter-to-the-editor columns of our newspapers.
All of that could change, now that the Saint Lucia Manufacturers Association has entered the picture. In a press release dated 23 January 2012, the group’s president Paula Calderon expressed serious concern that “an influx of Chinese persons” had purchased passports “in some OECS countries and become OECS citizens,” and were  operating businesses in the region.
Calderon believes the region’s heads of government “are not considering the long-term impact on their people.” She adds: “We are trading with a country that is notoriously unfair in its trading practices. The Chinese do not employ locals, except perhaps just one person to act as a front, and their profits go to China. The incentives they
receive from their government are way better that what many local business people receive when starting a business.”
According to Calderon: “Some manufacturing companies in the OECS have already lost millions of dollars, thanks to the
Chinese who manufacture the same product. It is impossible to compete with persons who have benefits from their home country which cannot be
quantified. If our heads of government wish to invite the Chinese to invest in our countries, such investment should be in the manufacturing industry rather than in our retail businesses. Further, the type of manufacturing permitted should not be the same as already exists in our countries.”
The SMA president observed that “in Roseau, Dominica, every other retail store is connected with a Chinese investor.” Moreover: “In Saint Lucia they are involved in the retail and small manufacturing business, hitherto the province of local entrepreneurs. The question must be asked and publicly answered by our governments: Rather than importing fair or unfair competition, shouldn’t our governments be helping our people purchase Chinese products to be retailed by our people to our people?”
Observes Calderon, finally: “The issue of reciprocity must be
faced. Can a citizen of an OECS territory purchase a Chinese passport and then go on to open a business in China? We need to
look at our foreign investments from an economic point of view and not only from the political view point.”
On Monday, heads of OECS governments met in Saint Lucia. It is
not clear whether the subject of the SMA press release was on their agenda.

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