Foreign Minister Kamara with members of the PRC delegation, including Liberia's Ambassador to the PRC, McKinley-Thomas (far-right)
Liberia has reached a point in its development drive where it would like to add value to its resources, create jobs for Liberians, and increase trade with the outside world, Foreign Minister Marjon Kamara told a high-powered delegation from the People's Republic of China (PRC) yesterday.
The Chinese delegation is in the country to hold exploratory discussions with the possibility to strengthen collaboration in the forestry sector.
According to a Foreign Ministry press release, the delegation, comprising the PRC's State Forestry Administration, along with five Chinese enterprises, paid a courtesy call to the office of Foreign Minister, accompanied by Liberia's Ambassador to the PRC, Dudley McKinley Thomas.
"We are very pleased by the decision that was taken to visit Liberia to hold exploratory discussions and look at possibilities to strengthen collaboration in the forestry sector," Minister Kamara told them. "We have natural resources, many of which we have been exporting as raw materials. We would like to add value by doing some processing of these materials in our country to create jobs for our people, and increase trade with the outside world and forestry is one area."
Min. Kamara indicated that it is government's hope that this visit will open the door for further strengthening of collaboration with China in the development of the forest sector.
"We hope that if you succeed in your discussions, you will exploit these resources in an environmentally friendly manner," Minister Kamara urged, adding, "all investments in this sector must ensure that we continue to preserve this asset by reforestation."
Kong Ming, PRC's deputy director general for State Forestry Administration, thanked Minister Kamara for the opportunity to meet with him and his delegation. He said their visit to Liberia is based on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's request to Chinese businessmen to explore investment opportunities when she visited China a few years ago; and their interest is in the forestry sector.
Mr. Ming said this is the first time that the PRC's State Forestry Administration has led a delegation to Liberia to explore opportunities in the forestry sector, and was therefore pleased to be in the country.
He noted that they fully understand Minister Kamara's concerns about adding value through processing, creating jobs as well as establishing long-term mechanisms to develop and utilize the forest in a sustained way. Ming assured that the Chinese have the potential to establish a long term and sustained cooperation mechanism.
"In recent years, Chinese enterprises have gained experience from investing in other countries in the areas of timber processing as well as re-establishing the timber industry garden," he said.
Ming said though it is just the beginning of the visit, his delegation is interested in establishing a strong relationship, and expressed the hope that after the deliberation, they will achieve good results.
These discussions commenced at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' conference room with government officials including representatives from the Forestry Development Authority, National Investment Commission and the ministries of Agriculture, Commerce and Industry, and State without Portfolio.