Antigua and Barbuda defend relations with China following criticism over Beijing embassy

Gaston Browne in the image. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne has defended the country’s relationship with China after facing criticism over the opening of Antigua and Barbuda’s embassy in China last month and concerns about its growing influence. Browne argued that the embassy in China was a justified response to the significant development assistance it receives from the Asian country. During his recent visit to Beijing, Browne said that China would provide the embassy with free space for a number of years.

The Antiguan leader described China as one of the Caribbean nation’s most important development partners and dismissed as absurd claims that China has a history of colonizing countries. Browne questioned the logic of those who criticize Chinese loans, noting that countries that colonized Antigua and Barbuda are accepted when they lend money, while Chinese loans are perceived as debt traps.

Browne compared China’s aid to a $37.3 million loan from the World Bank, noting that Chinese loans for projects such as the national airport and seaport, valued at more than $186.5 million, have more favorable terms: with 2% interest, a 20-year term and five-year moratoriums on each project.

However, the opening of the embassy has been met with internal criticism. Former Antiguan ambassador to Cuba, Bruce Goodwin, questioned whether the government had followed proper procedures and expressed concern about “unnecessary” spending on the embassy. Goodwin suggested the possibility of joint embassies with other members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to be more cost effective.

In the face of the controversy, Browne defended the move, citing the economic benefits and the need to strengthen ties with China, underscoring its importance as a development partner for Antigua and Barbuda.