The views and opinions expressed by the authors do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
through Sir Ron Sanders
On October 12, more than a dozen representatives in the US Congress sent a letter to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, requesting immediate attention to what they describe as “the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party in America. Latin and the Caribbean. trade and economic development ”.
Members of the United States Congress came to this realization years after Caribbean representatives in Washington – myself included – told successive American governments and Congress that the United States was absent as a significant contributor to the development of the United States. Caribbean for almost two decades.
The void that the US left has been bridged by the People’s Republic of China, and it would be unreasonable for the US government or Congress to expect Caribbean countries to postpone or delay their urgent development needs, while waiting for them to United States is refocusing its attention on the region.
Additionally, China’s loan terms to many Caribbean countries have been much more concessional than World Bank and IMF loans to lower- and lower-middle-income countries, and China is not using the income. per capita as a criterion to disqualify high income but vulnerable and underdeveloped Caribbean countries from eligibility for loans and grants.
Members of the US Congress and US government policymakers should take these realities into account when they say, as they did to the US Trade Representative, “Economic prosperity and solidified trade relations are slowing, becoming a matter of national security ”.
Caribbean countries do not view loans and other economic deals they have with China as a threat to US national security, and no CARICOM member state has policies or programs in place. that affect the national security of the United States.
Indeed, CARICOM countries have remained loyal to importing goods and services from the United States, even though US aid and investment in the sub-region have steadily declined.
Here are some facts that the 13 members of the United States Congress, who signed the October 12 letter, seem to ignore. First, with the exception of Haiti (which for the United States is a special case), the 14 independent states of the Caribbean Community have been at the bottom of United States official development assistance for decades.
In 2019, for example, total US foreign aid to the world was $ 47 billion, of which all CARICOM countries received $ 338 million or 0.7%. To underline, this represents less than 1 percent of the world total. Haiti alone received US $ 268 million of that US $ 338 million was delivered to the 14 CARICOM states, leaving the remaining 13 to share just US $ 70 million. For nine of the 13 countries, the amount provided did not amount to US $ 1 million.
On the trade front, the United States remained the dominant trading partner of the CARICOM states, enjoying a trade surplus of US $ 6.5 billion. Thus, while it is true that trade between Caribbean countries and China has increased in recent years, no merchandise trade with the United States has been moved, and certainly no trade in services. And, when it comes to foreign aid to the region, if China is now providing more to the Caribbean than the United States, that should hardly be a complaint from the United States.
Among the references made about China, there is the fact that its representatives use cutting-edge practices in negotiating contracts with Caribbean countries, which could lead to the seizure of vital infrastructure in the event of default. loans.
These references suggest that representatives of Caribbean countries lack the skills to negotiate contracts that are in their best interest – a claim most CARICOM governments would reject.
It also suggests that the CARICOM countries have not encountered similar practices from other countries which have led to unequal contracts – the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union collectively and each individual CARICOM country is in it. an example.
What American policymakers should take for granted is that China is giving more scholarships to Caribbean students to improve their knowledge and skills than the United States.
In fact, the United States is poaching Caribbean doctors, nurses and teachers – trained at great expense by Caribbean taxpayers. In the end, if the United States continues this practice, they will have only themselves to blame if the Caribbean professionals and influencers of the future know China better than the United States.
Certainly, the 13 members of Congress who wrote to USTR were more concerned about China’s relations with the largest countries in Latin America than with the Caribbean. The Caribbean is generally a forgotten appendix of Latin America among most American political influencers, including its think tanks. It is this concern about the loss of trade advantages and influence in Latin American markets that led them to say, “We believe that it is of the highest priority for the United States to maintain its relations. strong with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere.
Before long, China will be well positioned to completely dominate the economy of the Western Hemisphere, as China is already the largest trading partner for virtually all of Asia, Oceania, Eastern Europe, Africa and, as noted, most of South America. “
If China succeeds in dominating the economy of the Western Hemisphere, it will be because of a long period of neglect by the United States and the slow process of recognition that the United States must re-engage Latin America and the Caribbean in true cooperation and not with unilateral strategies that are long on words, but short on allocation and delivery of funds.
In any case, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, concerned with improving their economies and advancing the social and economic conditions of their peoples, do not subscribe to a rivalry between China and the United States in their region and hemisphere. They would all declare that there is ample room for economic cooperation and other forms of mutually beneficial cooperation with China and the United States.
The author is Antigua and Barbuda Sir Ron Sanders is the Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and to the OAS. He is also a senior researcher at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College at the University of Toronto. The opinions expressed are entirely his. Previous responses and comments: www.sirronaldsanders.com