Terrence Deyalsingh

Flashback, May 17: Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, second from right, speaks to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, left , during a tour of the field hospital at Jean Pierre Complex, Port of Spain. Looking on are Chargé d’Affaires of the United States Embassy, Shante Moore, and acting CEO of the NWRHA, Salisha Baksh.

—Photo: Office of the Prime Minister

PART 11 of an interview with Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Port of Spain Shante Moore with journalist Andy Johnson, first aired on television station WESN last Friday.

Moore has been with the US Foreign Service for more than 20 years in such postings as Kuwait, Qatar, Kosovo, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

He also served two consecutive terms at the US Mission to the OAS (Organisation of American States), and the Office of Aviation Negotiations in Washington DC.

Q: Do you think, besides what both governments, the US and China, are saying publicly, there is a real fight for hearts and minds, and for influence, in this part of the world, as well as in others, between these two systems, Chinese and American?

A: As I said before, it is a question of values, and we believe that democracy and freedom are important values that we cherish, and as democracies we have a responsibility to support countries, individuals that want freedom, that want the ability to live their lives as they deem fit. Obviously in a way that they respect the individuality and the importance of others.

Let’s take the vaccine, for example. I want to make this point. The US, we’re giving vaccines because we believe that it is in the interest of all our countries to make sure that we do what we can to protect ourselves in the pandemic, and to save lives. The US, we plan to give 13 per cent of our supply of excess vaccines to the rest of the world. We are going to share our vaccines with the rest of the world for free. This is five times more than any other country.

As you also know, we have committed four billion to the COVAX facility and so we’re going to make sure that we support all countries throughout the rest of the world.

I question whether or not China has that same commitment. We don’t have any hidden agenda. We’re not putting on any special conditions on our vaccines. We’re committed to support the WHO as the institute to help provide the vaccine to the countries and the people who are in the most need. But as I also said, we are working with CARPHA to make sure that we identify the countries that need the vaccines the most.

Q: To what extent is the US concerned about competition for influence, in what used to be referred to as its sphere of influence, such as this region in the Caribbean, from the Chinese?

A: The US, we welcome competition. We believe that competition is good, in a democracy, as free enterprise competition is good, because with competition that ensures that our citizens, our consumers receive the best products. They see the best technology; they’re getting the best quality of service that they can get. What is important is that it is important for all our countries and our democracies to make sure that our companies that want to compete, whether it is in our business or trade that the rules of the game are fair for everyone and the US, it is important that the rules of the game are fair. So that US companies can compete in any country to provide the goods and services that we believe that all citizens of the world can benefit from. So again, for us, it’s not a question of competition. It’s just making sure that the rules of the game are fair and equitable for everyone. That’s why we believe it is important to work with our international partners, with other countries that have an interest in maintaining and protecting the international systems, because you know after World War II, we worked with other countries to create international systems to promote democracy, security, freedom, prosperity, health and the goals that have benefited the world today. So that it is important that we keep the international systems together and intact and to make sure that other countries don’t undercut that influence, because the US does believe that the international system has benefited other countries and the world.

Q: You’ve been saying it in different ways, but I want to ask you to elaborate a bit on what in today’s world constitutes the continuing efficacy of the American Way, and the virtues of it, for social and political systems today?

A: US values are centred on democracy, human rights, freedom, capitalism, fairness, equality, making sure that all of our citizens have a chance to pursue their goals and ambitions to the best of their abilities. That is what I believe is the American Way. And sometimes that is challenged as we saw last year, when it comes to the death of George Floyd, the police and minority relations, race and racism, but the US citizens are working towards the American Way, which again means that all of us have the opportunity to pursue our goals and ambitions in a way that is free, fair, and respectful of others.

Q: Why should the people of this country, and indeed of the region, be concerned about increasing Chinese financial aid to them. What is there to be concerned about?

A: Every country has the sovereign right to pursue its relations with another country. However, we have instances where the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has imposed conditions over certain arrangements that have affected the sovereignty of other countries. Take for example the situation in Sri Lanka, where whatever agreement the government signed with the government of the PRC, it no longer has force. We also note the concerns that were mentioned by some African countries that have entered into agreements with China, that they are under an increasing amount of debt pressure. So again, every country has a sovereign right to pursue the interest or the relations they would like with other countries, but we ask countries just to be careful and to consider its interest and to make sure that they do the due diligence such that they can understand what’s in their best interest.

Q: What is your view on the presumed impressiveness of the Chinese scientific advancements, its space programme and its military strength… Is there real fear that this has surpassed, matched or pulled square with that of the US and this is a worrying affair for Washington?

A: The Biden administration considers China a strategic competitor, so we realise that as China continues to advance economically, militarily, that the US, we also have to be able to compete militarily and economically, because it comes back to my main point. It’s a question of values and so we have to make sure that we can compete with China in all aspects because it is a question of values, of democracy, freedom, human rights, making sure our economic decisions are fair and so that we can provide the opportunities and possibilities to all of our citizens, making sure that all people around the world have the freedoms and liberties to exercise their goals and values. We are working with the international system.

Q: The Chinese Ambassador here in his interview says some western media have spread large amounts of false information about Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Covid-19, seriously deviating from the objective, balanced and fair positioning of media reports.

He makes a comparison between the demonstrations in Hong Kong, and the riots on the US Capitol. Is that fair, and what do you make of those comments?

A: In the US system the media cover when we have protests, when we have to deal with issues of race, of systemic racism, the media has unfettered access to all these issues, to make sure that we as citizens and throughout the world, can look at how the government is trying to address these issues, at what we are doing, how our country and society are trying to address these issues.

We believe that the people of China who we support, and of course we don’t harbour any ill-will towards the people of China, don’t have these same opportunities to debate the policies of their government. So we’ll get human rights abuse allegations, abuses against Chinese citizens, ethnic and religious minorities and other people that the media have reported have been mistreated by the government of the People’s Republic of China.

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