Exclusive: Solomon Islands wide open for more Chinese investment in sectors from agriculture to green economy: envoy
Chinese companies are welcome to explore opportunities from agriculture to the green economy: envoy
Published: Jun 08, 2024 04:14 PM
Photo: Yin Yeping/GT

Photo: Yin Yeping/GT

Editor's Note:

China and the Solomon Islands are comprehensive strategic partners with ties built on mutual respect and common development. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations five years ago, bilateral ties have developed rapidly, political mutual trust has continuously deepened, and practical cooperation has yielded fruitful results, becoming a model for South-South cooperation among developing countries. The Global Times (GT) reporter Yin Yeping recently conducted an exclusive interview with Barrett Salato (Salato), Ambassador of the Solomon Islands to China, during which the envoy shared his view on the significance of Chinese investment for the island nation. He also emphasized a strong commitment to enhancing collaboration with China in green transformation, particularly within the electric vehicle (EV) sector, while defying any attempts of "decoupling" targeting China.

GT: How does the Solomon Islands intend to attract Chinese investment and how significant is the role that Chinese investors play in your country's development?

Chinese companies are welcome to explore opportunities in the Solomon Islands. The government of the Solomon Islands is prioritizing the development of the tourism sector, fisheries, and agriculture. We invite Chinese business investors to explore these opportunities.

Chinese investment is very important to us. I stress this because China is the largest trading partner of the Solomon Islands. We need to expand those trade ties. Even though the current trade between the two countries is significant, it comprises only a very small portion of product categories, mainly forest products. We want to diversify our cooperation into other sectors such as tourism, fisheries and agriculture, which are the main sectors prioritized by the government. We seek to acquire agricultural techniques and methods from China to develop our own agriculture industry. Hopefully, more Chinese investors can come and explore these new opportunities.

GT: How can China and the Solomon Islands cooperate on green economic transformation?

Green energy transformation is what we are pursuing. The Solomon Islands is a tropical country with a lot of sunshine and wind, so renewable energy is the way forward for our country. But we need the Chinese advanced technology in the areas of renewable energy to be able to tap into these potentials. That includes having more EVs from China, since it is the symbol of future transportation and is something that the Solomon Islands looks forward to expand in the future.

We are wide open for Chinese investment to our country and we encourage more investors from China to settle there.

GT: There are claims that with increased Chinese investment in the Solomon Islands, China's influence is also weighing heavily on the country. What is your response?

That's absolutely not true. Chinese investors are welcomed just like any investors from any other countries around the world, and we invite them as long as they genuinely want to do business and partner with the Solomon Islands.

We would like to do businesses with any country in the world, regardless of where they come from. As the Ambassador of the Solomon Islands to China, I want to promote that relationship and encourage more investors from China to come to my country.

GT: What are your comments on the so-called debt trap often hyped by Western media and politicians regarding Chinese investments in the developing countries?

That's what they believe. But we also have a choice in how we develop our country. We will explore every opportunity for developing the country. 

We have heard about the "debt trap" rhetoric or whatever they name it. We are a sovereign country. We assess our situation and make our own decisions. No matter how some people may think, China has been a very important partner, and the Chinese business community is one of the largest in my country.

China has been a very important builder of the infrastructure our country needs for development. At the moment, China is constructing a comprehensive health facility in the Solomon Islands for the benefit of the people, and the construction is already well underway. This is also what the Solomon Islands appreciates about China - its ability to build infrastructure projects efficiently. When Chinese companies are involved, you can see the progress and the actual changes they bring to our country.

GT: The US-led West is intensifying their voices calling for "decoupling" or "de-risking" from China and pushing other countries to join in. Does that bother you?

I think "decoupling" is another way of building walls against the progress that China has made to the world. They (some Western countries) also talk about "overcapacity" of Chinese EVs, yet I believe the world still requires numerous green products, including EVs, for sustainable development and green transformation.

We need development and cooperation rather than confrontation. And I think there are a lot of progress that China has made for the benefits of the rest of the world. We shouldn't have an "economic wall" of protectionism, pulling people away from the significant trend of globalization. This isn't the right approach. Instead, it's crucial for countries to open up to each other.

The Solomon Islands is a very small country. When major world powers like China and the US are not going well, we are the ones who feel the brunt. Our perspective is that they need to come together for the greater good of humanity, cooperating and prioritizing what's best for the global economy.