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Title: US/Caribbean%20Relations%20

US/Caribbean Relations Today and Tomorrow
  • Throughout history, the political, economic and
    diplomatic relationships between the USA and
    various Caribbean states have been marked by long
    periods of benign neglect and sharp periods of
    intervention and direct ostracism.

  • One scholar likened the relationship to that of a
    fire brigade coming in every now and then to put
    out fires with feverish activity then leaving
    with essentially un-repaired ruins behind. This
    view, while having a fair degree of validity
    ignores or underplays many positive aspects of
    the relationship, beyond the military and
    strategic interventions.

  • From the US perspective, its top decision makers,
    if and when they consider the Caribbean, find it
    hard to imagine why there is not instantaneity in
    Caribbean support for several US policies given
    the presumed quiet but good relationships with
    their close neighbours in the Caribbean area.

  • The US has admitted many Caribbean citizens to
    her shores, and has given them advanced
    education, jobs, residency and citizenships. US
    citizens, in return, freely visit the region with
    nothing more than a passport in the various
    tourism centers, putting much-needed US dollars
    in several economies.

  • US investors have been active in a variety of
    economic sectors, and so too US government funds
    have been transmitted for developmental purposes.
    Through the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and
    World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements,
    Caribbean producers have nearly full access to
    the US markets.

  • Hopefully, through the Free Trade Area of the
    Americas (FTAA) negotiations, an agreement may be
    reached in this Hemisphere will make the USA
    market more accessible (especially in textiles,
    agricultural products, etc.) to Caribbean

  • Hopefully, through the Free Trade Area of the
    Americas (FTAA) negotiations an agreement may be
    reached in this Hemisphere will make the USA
    market more accessible (especially in textiles,
    agricultural products, etc.) to Caribbean

  • From the Caribbean perspective it is argued that
    because we are small, weak and vulnerable, this
    does not mean that we should not be protective of
    the right to self-determination, sovereignty, and
    flexibility in external relations according to
    needs for self-sustaining growth and cultural

  • Therefore, there could not be automaticity in
    support for US policies towards, for examples,
    the Iraq invasion, Cubas persisting ostracism,
    and several international agreements of interest
    to weaker states.

  • The Caribbean concedes the positive aspects of
    the relationship but not, within them, the
    self-regarding, non-altruistic, quid pro quo,
    attitudes of the US. There is hardly room for
    the US to display an attitude of noblesse oblige.

  • The very expectation of instantaneity of support
    for all the major US policies illustrates these

  • We are vulnerable states along many dimensions of
    vulnerability, and our sovereignty is much more
    juridical than de facto but we do deeply believe
    in the right of micro states to exist and
    therefore we strongly support and participate in
    multinational institutions and treaties which
    seek to order the world along lines of justice,
    equity, fairness, and are concerned with
    equitable shares of the worlds resources.

  • By the same token, we become exceedingly
    uncomprehending when the worlds richest
    democratic state, so often, in practice, ignores
    or bypasses these processes. And, remember, it
    is not that many of these global institutions and
    processes are democratically controlled,
    transparent and participatory! The Security
    Council of the UN is not. The WTO is not. The
    IMF and the World Bank are not, and so on.

  • Nevertheless, even as these institutions and
    processes are, they are infinitely preferable to
    a situation in which powerful countries
    exclusively decide and dominate, and then seek
    for automatic support from the previously

  • Something is fundamentally wrong with this
    expectation. Unless the US is claiming sainthood
    and has a direct line to perfect truth that
    others do not have, all it should reasonably
    expect is critical support on several important
    global issues. The Caribbean has been responding
    positively as it is able, consistent with its

Current Caribbean/USA Relations
  • Current relations with the USA are conditioned by
    a normally favourable attitude of Caribbean
    peoples to US materialist culture, its reflexive
    democratic impulses, and by the large Caribbean
    population living there. However, for the
    official and intellectual classes, the Caribbean
    is deeply worried by the new radical foreign
    policy doctrine of the US government.

  • This is the first-strike doctrine which basically
    ignores international law, dismisses the precepts
    and procedures of collective security established
    by the UN Charter, and establishes the USA as the
    global enforcer (acting together as police
    persons, judge and jury, and executioner).

  • Small states are bound to be disturbed by this
    development, even if we could trust the US to be
    right all the time, because this gives an excuse
    for extra-territorial operations by other nations
    and non-state actors!

  • The Caribbean, it must be said, is equally
    disturbed by the dangerous threats facing us and
    the world the global reach of terrorists the
    pandemic of HIV/AIDs the spread of weapons of
    mass destruction unprecedented global
    environmental crises and a global economy and
    related governance system generating greater
    instability and inequality, as well as a global
    financial system which is equally deleterious.

  • US unilateralism, supremacy and exceptionalism,
    most certainly, even with its military, economic
    and technological power, will not, without world
    states participation and contribution be able to
    address these issues successfully, alone.

  • This is why it is disturbing to Caribbean nations
    that on a number of issues recently the US
    Government has been back-tracking on commitments,
    refusing to sign on to agreements, and going its
    own way on several others.

  • Let us list some of these. The US has rejected
    global scientific consensus and withdrawn from
    efforts to curb global warming. For us in the
    Caribbean global warming is absolutely serious.
    One major consequence is sea level rise. In a
    few short years our reefs and our beaches could
    be totally destroyed and so would the on-land
    tourism and our off-shore fisheries industry.

  • The renunciation of the US signature on the
    Treaty to create an International Criminal Court
    and the vigorous campaign to exempt all US
    personnel from its jurisdiction, even threatening
    to veto UN peacekeeping operations if its wishes
    were not attained, struck a major blow to
    multilateralism and an orderly world in which
    powerful countries would also respect and honour
    such obligations.

  • Small states like ours need such international
    institutions if we are to achieve a measure of
    justice not dependent on the largesse and mercy
    of powerful countries.

  • The US agreed to the Test Ban treaty while
    declaring an intention to test new nuclear
    weapons and refusing, itself, to rule out first
    strike against non-nuclear nations. Caribbean
    countries, especially after the Cuban Missile
    crisis, will never be in the nuclear race and so,
    perhaps, should not bother about these issues
    except to see a systematic destruction of
    existing ones.

  • However, it is the message about exceptionalism
    (international rules and treaties, yes but they
    do not apply to the USA the self-appointed
    guardian of freedom), that bothers us and the
    consequential delegitimisation of rules and

  • The USA has not come on board to mobilize a
    global offensive against the spread of HIV/AIDS,
    although it must be said that President Bush
    recently announced the allocation of major sums
    of money for this fight. Nevertheless, the
    perception is that its dominant concern is in
    privileging the financial interests of
    pharmaceutical companies over the need for
    affordable life-saving medicines.

  • Caribbean women and their families were not
    pleased when the US suspended its support for the
    Family Planning programme undertaken by the UN
    and has so far refused to support the Convention
    on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination
    Against Women (CEDAW). This suggests a weaker
    commitment to social development issues.

  • It is still a major concern that the US
    undermined the Oslo peace process, condoned the
    Israeli re-occupation of Palestinian territory,
    and rejected UN Security Council resolutions,
    supported by previous US administrations that
    provide a framework for conflict resolution
    containing strict security guarantees for both
    the Israelis and the Palestinians.

  • These are just some of the instances which caused
    Caribbean states to wonder about the USAs
    commitment to global institutions and processes
    and dampened any proclivity which may have
    existed to automatically support US policies as
    they manifest

  • There were other more direct issues such as the
    Shiprider dispute, US policy on Off-shore
    financial institutions in the Caribbean, US
    selectivity in determining which Caribbean Heads
    to invite to meetings with the President.

  • There are issues on the trade in small arms which
    has fuelled an upsurge of murders and crime in
    the Caribbean aligned to the Illegal
    transshipment of Drugs interdiction policy and
    the US reaction to countries which were deemed as
    not having done enough to stem the flow into the

  • Many Caribbean Governments saw these
    returnees/deportees with their sophisticated
    weaponry as responsible for a major upsurge in
    murders and other criminal activity in several
    countries. The security forces in the region
    have not been able to contain this massive
    upsurge in criminal activity. This is probably
    the number one concern in the Region now!

  • The banana issue where the USA supported the
    position of its multinationals which dominate the
    food industry globally over Caribbean producers
    continuation in the business through special
    market privileges with the European Union and for
    the less than 6 per cent of the global share of
    the market that the Caribbean had, was, and still
    is, a source of great irritation for Caribbean
    banana producing countries.

  • These and others are examples of irritants,
    sometimes of major proportions, which have led to
    an extremely wary attitude of Caribbean leaders
    to the US President and official agencies. The
    transshipment of nuclear wastes through the
    Caribbean also caused diplomatic difficulties.

  • In response to these concerns, the US has
    increased military assistance to the region,
    especially through training, joint military and
    security exercises.

  • The FTAA, still some way off for realization, is
    the arena within which the US hopes to
    incorporate the entire Latin America and
    Caribbean regions into a kind of prosperity zone.
    This has been long in the making but there are
    serious splits in conceptualisation of the final
    product, to be hopefully completed in 2,005.
    This hope about completion time is looking
    bleaker even after the outcome of the meeting in
    Miami this week.

  • Let us examine this a bit more because the future
    relations with the USA will be heavily coloured
    by the WTO and FTAA negotiations. There
    continues to be a titanic struggle within the WTO
    by member countries on a variety of issues.

  • The scuttling of the negotiation process at
    Seattle, the unsatisfactory outturn at Doha and
    blatant powerful country manipulation of weaker
    states along with the deadlock at CANCUN suggest
    that countries, that are not G7, have to come
    together on selected issues and hold firm, in
    order to have influence. Out of this
    power-play action may come the transparency,
    equity and inclusiveness that weaker economies
    would wish to see.

  • It did not take long for Caribbean states to
    discover that even apparent gains at Doha re
    better prices for HIV/AIDs pharmaceuticals turned
    out to be more apparent than real. So too was
    the offer of sufficient technical assistance to
    governments to take adequate part in subsequent
    post Doha activities.

  • Attitudes of resistance were manifested in the
    formation of two new groupings, for the Cancun
    Ministerial meeting, with several Caribbean
    countries participation, which may be effective
    in future WTO negotiations.

  • They are the group of 21 countries chaired by
    Brazil wanting effective treatment of
    agricultural subsidies and the group of 23,
    chaired by Indonesia (formed an alliance for
    Strategic Products (SP) and Special Safeguard
    Mechanism (SSM) to fight for the interests of
    "small vulnerable resource-poor farmers from
    developing countries" through strong SP and SSM
    mechanisms in the Cancun outcome on agriculture.

  • Caribbean countries were united in what they
    wanted out of the WTO and never deviated at
    Cancun. This ability to hold a line needs to
    be converted into mutually beneficial outcomes
    for all. At least, many weaker and middle power
    states recognized that there is hope for a
    significantly improved governance system within
    the WTO. On these issues, the Caribbean came up
    directly against key issues for the USA and the
    European Union.

  • The continuing struggles over implementation
    issues for developing countries and over not
    proceeding with the Singapore issues before
    settling these suggest that rich countries are
    not prepared to act in good faith unless
    pressured into fair and equitable actions.

  • These issues have been continuously downgraded
    and sidelined by powerful countries in the WTO.
    Caribbean complaints on implementation issues
    relate to the non-realisation of anticipated
    benefits (as in textiles and agriculture),
    imbalances and asymmetries to be corrected
    (TRIPS, subsidies, etc.) and the non-operational
    and non-binding provisions (to be made

  • In all of these issues, the US approach to
    Caribbean needs seemed unfeeling and

  • For the Caribbean, achieving fairness and equity
    in the global tourism industry is really of vital
    importance. The UN Commission on Sustainable
    Development organized a dialogue in April 2002
    (7th Session) that brought together national and
    local governments, the tourism industry, trade
    unions and activist groups and considered how to
    make tourism sustainable all over the world.

  • The concern arose because tourism developers,
    usually foreign, and tourists with lots of money
    to spend, believe they are capable of managing
    and conserving land and natural resources and in
    cooperation with the tourist industry can
    properly manage and conserve 'nature' under a
    national eco-tourism plan.

  • What was especially important for the
    Caribbean,arising out of this discussion, was the
    strong commitment to the democratic control of
    the industry. The UN General Assembly (UNGA)
    adopted a resolution on 'Sustainable Tourism' as
    part of its Programme for the further
    implementation of Agenda 21 -- the action
    programme adopted at the Rio Earth Summit.

  • This resolution acknowledges the need to consider
    further the importance of tourism in the context
    of Agenda 21. Among other things, it states
  • For sustainable patterns of consumption and
    production in the tourism sector, it is essential
    to strengthen national policy development and
    enhance capacity in the areas of physical
    planning, impact assessment, and the use of
    economic and regulatory instruments, as well as
    in the areas of information, education and

  • The problem is that the current structure of
    international business and trade is hostile to
    benefit sharing. Travel and tourism have emerged
    as one of the world's most centralised and
    competitive industries. Many markets for
    services are dominated by a few large firms from
    developed countries.

  • As a result, in most service sectors, the larger
    operators face little effective competition as
    the size of the next tier of competitors is so
    small.  For example, 80 per cent of the market in
    tourism belongs to Thomson, Airtours, First
    Choice and Thomas Cook. 

  • Service providers from developing countries are
    mainly small- and medium-sized, and they face
    competition from large service multinationals
    with massive financial strength, access to the
    latest technology, worldwide networks and a
    sophisticated information technology

  • Caribbean perception is that the USA favours the
    interests of the few transnational corporations
    which dominate the industry over the weaker
    players interest in equitable benefit sharing

  • The trend in mergers and acquisitions and
    strategic alliances has exacerbated this
    concentration. UNCTAD studies on health, tourism,
    air transport and construction have highlighted
    the possible anti-competitive impact of these new
    business techniques. For example, vertical
    integration between tour operators and travel
    agents creates considerable market power that
    puts competitors at a disadvantage. 

  • The structure of distribution channels and
    information networks in several service sectors
    has also shut out competition.  For example, in
    tourism and air transport, strategic global
    alliances and global distribution systems have
    restricted competition and present major barriers
    to market entry by developing countries (UNCTAD
    studies on health, tourism, air transport and
    construction  6-8).

  • The striking paradox is that the institutions for
    liberal trade in tourism and travel services are
    themselves illiberal! These transnational
    corporations have increasingly pressured
    governments around the world to liberalise trade
    and investment in services and are likely to
    benefit tremendously from the General Agreement
    on Trade in Services (GATS).

  • Under GATS an objective is to abolish
    restrictions on foreign ownership and other
    measures which have so far protected the services
    sector in individual countries. Already, in the
    hotel sector, GATS facilitates franchising,
    management contracts and licensing.

  • Under national treatment rules, foreign tourism
    companies will be entitled to the same benefits
    as local companies, in addition to being allowed
    to move staff across borders at will, open branch
    offices in foreign countries, and make
    international payments without restrictive

  • Whatever remaining national control Caribbean
    countries may envisage, signing on to GATS, as is
    and is to be, means ceding all remaining national
    powers of regulation.

  • Furthermore, foreign investment is increasingly
    being deregulated under the GATT/WTO system.
    Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) will
    ensure that foreign companies will no longer be
    obliged to use local input.

  • It is also true that although the attempt by the
    Organisation for Cooperation and Development
    (OECD) to establish a Multilateral Agreement on
    Investment (MAI) was stalled, efforts to
    resuscitate the process continue. The agreement
    would have included unrestricted entry and
    establishment of foreign firms, national
    treatment, automatic repatriation of profits,
    technology transfer, etc.

  • The World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) has
    presented its Millennium Vision on travel and
    tourism. This vision includes the following key
  •          Get governments to accept travel and
    tourism as a strategic economic development and
    employment priority

  • Move towards open and competitive markets by
    supporting the implementation of GATS, liberalise
    air transport and deregulate telecommunications
    in international markets and
  •          Eliminate barriers to tourism growth,
    which involves the expansion and improvement of
    infrastructure -- e.g. the increase of airport
    capacity, construction and modernisation of
    airports, roads and tourist facilities.

  • Presumably, bi- and multilateral aid agencies
    will begin transferring their development
    resources into these activities, away from other
    developmental activities since the financial
    pool, in real terms, has sharply declined.

  • Caribbean concerns are manifold. Among them is
    the high likelihood of loss of independence by
    scores of small and medium size enterprises,
    including hotels and tour operators, because most
    Caribbean enterprises will hardly be able to
    compete with foreign companies.

  • Already, only a small portion of tourism revenues
    reaches the Caribbean because of the high foreign
    exchange leakages. It seems quite obvious that
    the balance sheet may even worsen because the
    profits and other income repatriated by foreign
    companies are likely to grow larger than the
    inflow of capital.

  • For these two reasons tourism will not bring
    wealth, progress, social achievements and
    improved environmental standards heralded for it
    to the Caribbean in the now enveloping global
    liberalization processes. In all of these
    concerns not one iota of support has been
    expressed by the USA, as it was also the case on
    the banana issue.

  • Furthermore, the resolution calls for
    participation of all concerned parties in policy
    development and implementation of sustainable
    tourism programmes.

  • The drive for this comes from two main sources
  • 1.      countries such as Jamaica, facing serious
    debt burdens and worsening trade terms, turn to
    tourism promotion in order to obtain foreign
    exchange and investment, and

  • 2. from leading international agencies such as
    the World Bank, United Nations agencies and
    business organisations (like the World Travel
    Tourism Council (WTTC) which hope to make tourism
    a truly global but sustainable industry.

  • A similar process has taken shape in relation to
    the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)
    negotiations. On the one hand, there is a vision
    of the FTAA, led by the USA, which anticipates an
    agreement to be completed by 2005, which is
    comprehensive and multilateral based on
    completely free trade by each and every partner
    country. This is the view of 13 countries.

  • This all inclusive approach, whether the country
    is weak or strong economically or otherwise would
    mean even greater freedom for non-Caribbean
    corporations to rise above national concerns and
    regulation for non-Caribbean corporations to
    freely source agricultural products, furniture
    and building materials, for examples, from
    outside Jamaica and the region and for
    value-chain issues in most goods and services not
    to be seriously considered.

  • Maybe, one day, apart from some Caribbean
    businesses, which have wisely spread out their
    operations into and outside the region, the rest
    of the Caribbean operations, if they survive the
    openness, may gain the strength to take on the
    multinational corporations.

  • To be sure, there will be still several niche
    markets possibilities, especially in ancillary
    services. In nearly all issues, the USA has
    been firm in support of its US based
    multinational corporations, in spite of
    deleterious social, economic, environmental and
    political fallouts in Caribbean countries.

  • The other 20 countries, led by Brazil, envision a
    more realistic process in which member states
    seek to achieve conciliation re their offensive
    interests and balance these against defensive
    interests. Indeed, this perspective is real in
    the sense that many of the negotiating committees
    are deadlocked and there is need for more
    conciliatory attitudes to prevail.

  • Caribbean countries are, understandably,
    reluctant to pursue a multilateral agreement
    within a single undertaking reluctant to pursue
    an ambitious and comprehensive negotiating agenda
    on all issues by 2005 are anxious for tourism
    issues to achieve special treatment and are
    reluctant to include labour and environment
    issues in the negotiations.

  • On all these issues, the US and its allies are
    most aggressive in denying their primary
    importance for small and developing states.

  • Caribbean countries are favouring an approach
    which pursues flexibility in negotiating at
    bilateral or multilateral levels without obliging
    countries each country to the same commitment
    favour a reduction or reshaping of the
    negotiating agenda support compensations
    mechanisms to balance out socio-economic
    differences, as well as would wish to negotiate
    agricultural subsidies in the interest of food

  • Nevertheless, after conciliatory dialogue with
    the United States Trade Representative (USTR),
    Robert Zoellick, in 2002, a compromise was
    reached at the meeting of the FTAA Trade
    Negotiating Committee in Santo Domingo that
    allows CARICOM to start negotiations on the basis
    of higher tariffs for a limited number of
    agricultural products, still to be defined.

  • Doubtful as it stands, this may nonetheless prove
    to be a prelude (?) to the achievement of a
    comprehensive package of special and differential
    treatment for the smaller economies in the FTAA.

  • The US, on the other hand is puzzled by the
    Caribbean support for Cubas participation in the
    OAS and in discussions on the FTAA, which
    explicitly excludes Cuba. The Caribbean has also
    incorporated Cuba in some of its councils and has
    even allowed investment in and travel to Cuba.
    Caribbean relationship with Cuba has, for a long
    time, been a major irritant to the USA.

  • The Caribbean Basin Initiative was a President
    Reagan initiative for the entire region.
    However, it delivered far less than was expected.
    The US probably over-estimated what could have
    been accomplished through the CBI, assuming that
    much more was intended.

  • The reduction of some Caribbean debt for
    environmental action was a positive action on the
    part of the US but not the downscaling of USAID
    offices and financial and technical aid to the
    region, although critical interventions still
    continue through this source in the Region.

  • The problem which the Caribbean has, in an
    overall sense, is the benign neglect for
    countries which desire a much more productive
    relationship with the US in all dimensions of
    inter-state relationships.

The Future of US/Caribbean Relationship
  • In many ways the Caribbean has lost its strategic
    and military importance to the USA. Only Cuba,
    and maybe, in a different way, Haiti, remain of
    selective interests in these two aspects. The US
    actually believes that the FTAA will be equally
    beneficial for all countries in the region and
    that the best thing they could do is to
    completely liberalise trade and access in all
    aspects of economic activity.

  • With this deep belief, notwithstanding who is the
    President, the Caribbean will have to continue to
    insist on flexibility in its participation in
    trading and economic groupings, strengthen
    significantly the regional integration movement
    and even reach for a form of political union as
    both a protective mechanism and as a way of
    acquiring the ability to collectively compete in
    open markets.

  • The Caribbean countries cannot withdraw from
    participation in multilateral trading
    arrangements so they have to strive with all
    their might to improve the quality and
    responsiveness of the governance structures in
    these global and regional organizations.

  • The Caribbean needs rules based systems
    guaranteed by international collective action
    which can induce reasonable constraints from
    highly exploitative companies and countries
    operating at the global level.

  • It is not at all certain, if deadlocks become a
    feature of global trade, economic and financial
    negotiations, that rich countries will still
    support multilateralism. They may actually
    retreat back into national protectionism and
    bilateral and regional clout.

  • Either of these possibilities would deny the weak
    states of the Caribbean in the international
    system an assurance of equity and fairness.

  • May good sense prevail because there is much that
    can be mutually beneficial to the USA and the
    Caribbean alike in improving the governance of
    global and regional institutions and ensuring
    adherence to rule rather than might.

  • The End
  • Neville C. Duncan
  • 100204
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