Foreign policy coordination in CARICOM states is another 'all fool's joke'
A few days before the CARICOM 33rd Assembly in St. Lucia, Grenada's Prime Minister Tillman Thomas startled Grenadians by announcing the future construction of a new hospital, which many dubbed "another fool's joke."
As the assembly concluded in St. Lucia, there was Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of Barbados with another "all fool's joke" by announcing that CARICOM leaders are moving to better coordinate foreign policies, and his nation has already taken steps in such direction.
Without in any manner trying to diminish or dismiss Stuart's enthusiasm about foreign policy coordination, it was quite interesting to learn from his comments about the Barbados foreign ministry initiatives to re-examine Barbados foreign policy and more specifically to ascertain if "we are in the right places at this time and make sure that we make the appropriate adjustments."
It is commonly known that following any CARICOM pow-wow in the region, there are numerous post pow-wow media spins and in this particular case, Barbados was apparently accorded the responsibility to selectively tell the global community what went on.
It was extremely encouraging to see Stuart's awakening since the untimely passing of former Prime Minister David Thompson. Having awakened and in his lackluster approach to give his nation special kudos about the Caribbean Court of Justice and Barbados's adherence to the one China policy, I was not impressed because Stuart fell extremely short on both issues and maybe they should not have been mentioned.
Why? Barbados' early acceptance of the CCJ as the final appellate jurisdiction is commendable and will always be recognized.
Stuart, in expressing his appreciation about the many regional individuals who contributed to the creation of the institution, failed to give credit to former Chief Justice David Simmonds and former Prime Minister Owen Arthur.
What was even more striking and shameful is when he dealt with foreign policy issues and used Barbados' and mainland China relations.
With fairness to Stuart, Barbados has made the correct decision and while the former BLP administration did not take the initiative to establish a resident ambassador in Beijing as the current DLP administration did, readers must be reminded that former Barbados Foreign Minister Billie Miller did quite a bit of work in strengthening effective bilateral cooperation between the two nations.
However, as the notion and useless terminology of "foreign policy coordination" is touted and bandied around to the region's population, Stuart sat amongst two regional leaders whose nations still maintain strong relations with the renegade province Taiwan.
While Stuart was on the rostrum advancing his media spins, there might have been three other CARICOM leaders around whose nations maintain strong bilateral ties with Taiwan.
Therefore, in my view, if CARICOM is to demonstrate any credibility and seriousness in its approach to "foreign policy coordination," simple common sense demands that CARICOM is obligated in addressing and settling the One China policy. Passing a resolution or reaching consensus amongst leaders is fine but the implementation of the resolution must occur and be honored by some of our regional leaders.
Foreign policy coordination amongst CARICOM member states is not achievable and will never work. The sooner that this myth is dropped and buried, those within the organization who continue to dream and harbor thoughts on this issue should call it a day.
It cannot work and efforts should be made to focus on other pressing issues affecting the organization.
It is possible that limited functional cooperation between CARICOM states might be possible.
For example, at a time when the region faces a depletion of local resources to implement and sustain national development initiatives, CARICOM should take the initiative of encouraging Barbados and the other states to have one chancery in Beijing, where their operational resources can be better maintained. A similar suggestion will work very well in Toronto, where many CARICOM states have opted to maintain their consulates.
These initiatives must not be seen as foreign policy coordination, but rather functional cooperation.
There is no foreign policy coordination task and our leaders, secretariat staffers and ill-informed international agencies bureaucrats must understand that there is no foreign policy to coordinate.
Member states have achieved their independence in varying times; they have made their own independent decisions about who they would maintain diplomatic relations with.
CARICOM cannot change it and should not attempt to. Given the secretariat's success in harnessing and befitting from various multilateral initiatives, it is advisable that the secretariat should continue in this direction, as it is likely to have more measureable outcomes.
Foreign policy coordination is a very complex issue and often misunderstood. It might be logical and reasonable to assume that the region and its leadership are showing signs of deficiency in this area.
Get to work, Dr. Anthony. As CARICOM chair, it might be helpful to re-examine your nation's diplomatic relation with Taiwan and understand that the recall of an ambassador from Castries to Taipei does not solve the One China policy.
© 2012 The Freeport News