The position led by Caricom chairperson Mia Mottley and publicly endorsed by the governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda on this week’s meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is well-grounded and informed by respect for the integrity of Caricom.
Far from the view espoused by Opposition MP Rodney Charles, we do not see the government’s position as any indication of this country’s diplomatic isolation or surrendering of regional leadership. It is a powerful statement of unity against the divisiveness and fragmentation that has for too long been weakening the integration movement.
As we understand it, Mr Pompeo came to the Caribbean to drum up support for the US position on Venezuela and, perhaps more importantly, to canvass support for the re-election of Uruguay’s Luis Almagro as Secretary General of the Organisation of American States. There is no question that Mr Almagro has been compliant with the US hemispheric agenda and therefore has the full backing of the US government. However, among the candidates whom he will be up against in the March 20 election is former Ecuadorian foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa who has reportedly been nominated by several Caricom members, including Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Ideological battle-lines are already sharply drawn with Ecuador’s new right-wing government supporting Mr Almagro.
Whether or not this is Mr Pompeo’s main agenda item, PM Mottley is absolutely correct to resist the cherry-picking that undermines the regional bloc. We encourage other leaders to stand resolute with her on this and every other issue that promotes regional fragmentation.
If Caricom is today a shadow of what it was designed to be it is because too many leaders have been too anxious to sit at the table of the world’s superpowers. Whether in the chair or not, Ms Mottley has brought a spirited leadership that has long been lacking in Caricom. It is not an easy path to tread given the rewards for breaking ranks but the long-term interest of the Caribbean will only be served by an impregnable unity which has so far eluded the regional bloc.
While some foreign ministers of eastern Caribbean countries made the trip to Jamaica for yesterday’s meeting with Mr Pompeo, PM Mottley’s clear statement, bolstered by the support of T&T and other Caricom states, should serve as a signal to them about the need to deal with extra-regional governments from a position of consensus.
However, it should be added that while the danger of individual Caricom states entering bilateral relationships with the US has been well-ventilated for decades, almost no attention has been paid to the commitments being sewn up across the region by China which has been spectacularly successful in its one-on-one negotiations with member states; so successful, in fact, that countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, have been willing to undermine their own laws, including labour laws, to facilitate the government of China.
The time is ripe for Caricom to get serious about a foreign policy approach that strengthens the region’s hands. To fail is to condemn the region to a future in which individual states are mere pawns of others.