SMA statement on Chinese investment gets regional and US attention

Former Press Secretary Earl Bousquet and SMA prez Paula Calderon.

An issue raised in St Lucia by the local manufacturers association has grown legs. SMA president Paula Calderon told the STAR yesterday that since the organization spoke out over the issue of Chinese involvement in the business sector in St Lucia the issue has been receiving attention from other Caribbean territories and even the United States.
In a story published yesterday the Antigua Observer notes the SMA president’s concerns about Chinese investors in the region. The local association has been arguing for protection of local businesses much in the same way China protects its own businesses.
“I really did not realize that what I said would have impacted so greatly outside the region,” said Calderon. “A company out of the US has contacted me on this issue and has decided to come here to look at it. The fact is this is not just affecting the region and St Lucia right now but other parts of the world.
“We have got to decide what type of investment we want to bring into St Lucia and we need to be creative about the type of investment we bring in and to make sure it is not competing with our local people,” she said.
And it seems the issue is gaining support. The Antigua Observer also quotes past vice president of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce Michael Astaphan, who says that the region’s relationship with China is actually retarding development.
Astaphan was quoted as telling the news source that it seems as if the political parties, and not the nation, are the ones that are really benefitting.
He said: “A lot of them feel that we should be very much grateful to the Chinese for their investment of the capital projects that they put in our countries. Now this is a serious problem for us. I think that China has to look after their people but what are the politicians in the OECS doing? They seem to be defending China and the policy to go Chinese seems more associated, not with the development of the country, but (with) what it can do for the political parties and I think that this is something that the people should look at very closely.”
But the local manufacturers association has stared clear of bringing politics into the issue. In fact the SMA president Paula Calderon has demanded an apology from local China-St Lucia Friendship Association member and former press secretary to the prime minister Earl Bousquet. In an article published in the Weekend STAR, Calderon claimed that Bousquet grossly misquoted her.
In a statement sent out on Monday, Calderon demanded an apology from Bousquet.
“It is unfortunate that a writer of the experience and seniority of an Earl Bousquet should find it necessary to distort truth as he did in the recent article in the STAR Newspaper ‘What China Syndrome’ to make his point, Mr Bousquet states and I quote ‘The St Lucia Manufacturers Association has argued against restoring ties with China, which it blames for the presence here of Chinese persons doing business. The general claim is that St Lucia will be better off with Taiwan than China and local small businesses and manufacturers would do better without Chinese-owned businesses operating here.’”
The SMA statement goes on: “At no time have I ever made any such comments in any newspaper or interview that I have given, nor to the best of my knowledge have any of my predecessors articulated this view.   Unless Mr Bousquet can produce contrary evidence I would hope that he is a big enough man with a sufficient concern for his reputation to apologize to the St Lucia Manufacturers Association, on all public media. Neither I nor the Association which I represent are involved in the decision making as to which of the two Chinas St Lucia should affiliate with, but I do know that I am for what I perceive as best for the people of this country. We know all about trade agreements and the WTO, yet countries all over the world are using tools to protect their local companies.”
Calderon quoted from A Global News article “Government Protection Makes Marketers Job Harder in China” that stated: “China is a key market for multinational but it is also a challenging and confusing place to do business especially because the Chinese Government is eager to protect local companies in key areas . . . Global financial firms for instance are limited in the services they can offer Chinese consumers—and last month the government officially withdrew support for foreign capital in auto manufacturing putting global automakers on edge in the world largest car market.  And few global internet companies have succeeded in China, where government policies favor local giants like Baidu, Sina, and Alibaba.”
Finally the SMA president said: “I am delighted that the original press release has stimulated a debate on this important issue which will have a fundamental effect on our homeland.   I think it is each person’s duty to protect our people, to shape our country.”
In a further statement to the STAR, Calderon made it clear that the membership has not stated which of the two Chinas the St Lucia government should affiliate with.
Calderon also responded to the issues raised by some vendors about the low cost of Chinese goods.
“What we should be more concerned about and what the visitors to St Lucia would like to see is something made in St Lucia and not made in China,” she said. “We have to be a little more creative.”
Regarding the comparison made by some between the Chinese and St Lucia’s large Syrian population that has have started businesses and thrive in St Lucia, Calderon said: “They have basically taken over. Is that really what we want to happen with everyone who comes to do business in St Lucia? Where will we be? That is an obvious response.”
Calderon also took issue with another aspect of Earl Bousquet’s article where he spoke to the issue of the selling and buying of passports.
“He is very myopic in his view because whatever the OECS countries do impact the other islands. We are one unit. So it doesn’t matter if it’s Dominica that sells the passport, it is going to impact on St Lucia,” she said. “The OECS heads of government have to make a decision as to what they want to do.”

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