Editorial

Nothing wrong with PM meeting with US president

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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Last Friday's meeting between United States President Donald Trump and five Caribbean leaders, including Jamaica's Mr Andrew Holness, is nothing for us to work up ourselves about.

Indeed, a meeting between the leaders of the most powerful country in the world and some of the least powerful countries is, ordinarily, quite desirable and something that should take place more often because of its potential for good.

The outcome of the meeting is what should give us pause. So far, we have not heard of the substance of the meeting in Miami, Florida, beyond that the situation in Venezuela, China's role in our region, and energy were discussed.

Of course, the meeting cannot be called a meeting of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) since the chairman and other key community officials were not involved, even if the countries invited — Haiti, St Lucia, The Bahamas, The Dominican Republic, and Jamaica — represent the bulk of the regional population.

In respect of Venezuela, the US is known to want to see the back of President Nicolas Maduro. Whatever action the Trump Administration takes against him will affect all nations in this region.

PetroCaribe has already been hit by the US sanctions against Venezuela, notwithstanding the offer of an alternative energy programme by Opposition Leader Juan Guaidˇ.

We would expect that no harm could come from hearing what Mr Trump has in mind in respect of any further action against Mr Maduro, in which event appropriate preparations can be made to minimise any potential fallout.

At the same time, the meeting provided an opportunity for the Caribbean leaders to explain the position they took under the umbrella of Caricom and the United Nations about non-interference in Venezuela's affairs and a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The leaders, we hope, would also have told Mr Trump about Venezuela's role as saviour of the region through PetroCaribe at a time when other countries, including the US, were more inward-looking.

As to China, the Caribbean leaders have also been provided a golden opportunity to explain to Mr Trump the critical importance of China's assistance that has kept their economies afloat and given them a fighting chance in a tough global environment.

It is the absolute truth that the US had largely ignored the Caribbean as a region of geopolitical importance after the end of the East-West Cold War. The region found itself cut adrift in shark-filled economic waters and many of us would have been devoured were it not for China.

We have faith that no Caribbean leader would wish to signal that we are a region of ingrates who grab what we can get from old friends when we are in trouble, only to abandon them for new friends or renewed friendship when things are looking up.

We don't believe that Mr Trump would want to put us in such an untenable position. And if he did, we are sure he would find that there are no takers in the Caribbean.


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