by Luis Brito and Pei Jianrong
SANTO DOMINGO, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- The newly established diplomatic ties between China and the Dominican Republic have opened a panoply of trade and investment opportunities for the two countries, according to the Economy, Planning and Development Minister of Dominican Republic Isidoro Santana.
Santana spoke with Xinhua about the range of options available to Dominican producers and Chinese investors once relations materialize into cooperation agreements, streamlined visa application procedures or improved air connections.
"Given the nature of the Chinese economy, now the leading driver of global economic growth, and given the nature of the Dominican economy, an economy that is growing amid much stability, the Dominican government's decision (to establish ties) opens a world of opportunities," said Santana.
Dominicans hope the new relationship with China, announced on May 1, will open China's market to local rum and tobacco, as well as fresh produce and minerals.
For several years, China has been the country's second-largest supplier of imported goods. Dominican exports to China, on the other hand, have been slow to take off. Diplomatic ties should help give them a boost, said Santana.
"To the extent that that's possible and we overcome phytosanitary hurdles, there will surely be agrifood producers and growers of fresh produce that could eventually penetrate the Chinese market," Santana said.
As an initial step, representatives of the Dominican agrifood sector plan to attend the first ever China International Import Expo being held on Nov. 5-10 in Shanghai.
"It could end up being highly important for Dominican business owners to go, visit the country, see what options they have, and also showcase their production and establish contacts with potential buyers," said Santana.
A government delegation is also expected to attend the trade fair which will be attended by hundreds of exporters from around the globe.
On a trip to China in June, as head of the first Dominican official delegation to meet with Chinese authorities and companies since the diplomatic ties were established, Santana pitched potential business opportunities to investors in Beijing, Shenzhen and Harbin.
"The Dominican Republic needs a lot of infrastructure and a lot of foreign investment to spur employment and trade from here," said the economy chief.
Infrastructure investment could be implemented by the government with the help of Chinese technology and financing, or through public-private partnerships spearheaded directly by Chinese companies, he said.
"Many large Chinese companies have approached us ... to express their interest and find out what the opportunities are," said Santana.
The Caribbean country also hopes stronger ties will lead to an increase in Chinese tourists to its famed beaches and resorts.
With that in mind, the country is looking to establish air links with China and simplify the visa process for Chinese travelers. The Dominican Tourism Ministry has planned to roll out a Chinese-language web site and launch a promotional campaign in China.
"In the end, if we succeed in attracting even a million (tourists), which is such a small number for the Chinese, but such a large number for us, it would be a great thing," said Santana.