Mon | Oct 22, 2018

Editorial | Jamaica’s foreign policy post-Bretton Woods

Published:Thursday | June 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM

In hindsight, it is perhaps understandable that Jamaica doesn't, at this time, appear to have a coherent and clearly articulated foreign policy. A new one may have been in the making. Perchance that was not the case, the circumstances are opportune for Jamaica to bring a new consonance to its international relationships and for Prime Minister Andrew Holness, soon to be installed as chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), to lead our community partners in shaping a regional response to a shifting global paradigm.

For, as should be obvious to Mr Holness and his Caribbean counterparts, under the mercurial leadership of Donald Trump, old certitudes of America's global leadership are fast eroding, potentially leaving a vacuum to be filled not only by another power, but an entirely new international architecture. The old one has been badly fractured by Mr Trump, and, if it is sustained in a fashion, it will have to adapt to new norms, with the United States, at least for the rest of Mr Trump's presidency, being the petulant insider playing with a wrecking ball.

The latest evidence of Mr Trump's insistence on this global rearrangement was seen in the aftermath of last week's summit of Group of Seven countries USA, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada whose communique Mr Trump whimsically repudiated before proceeding to an ad hominem attack on his Canadian host, Justin Trudeau. He accused the Canadian prime minister of being "dishonest and weak". Mr Trudeau's sin was to insist that Canada would retaliate against America's imposition of a 25 per cent tariff on steel, and 10 per cent on aluminium, exported to the USA.

The European Union, Mexico, and a handful of other countries have also been slapped with the tariff as part of a broader response by Mr Trump's administration to its belief that the United States has had the short end of the stick in global trade arrangements, including the North America Free Trade Agreement, which the US shares with Canada and Mexico.

Concerned about America's deficit on visible trade, Mr Trump wants to upend all these agreements as well as reshape its military commitments such as those under the NATO umbrella. It is all in keeping with Mr Trump's still ill-defined "America First" doctrine.

What, however, Mr Trump appears on the verge of accomplishing is the atrophying of the post-war global architecture, which it designed, and of which it was the primary leader, that gave the world the Bretton Woods institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, and what, more latterly, transformed into the World Trade Organisation.

 

Keen on reform

 

Even if the face of Mr Trump's disruption, and the fact that America's departure from the club would remove 45 per cent of the group's GDP, the remaining six members are keen on reforming, rather than dismantling, the old arrangements.

Countries like Jamaica, and its CARICOM partners, have a voice in this argument, which is best articulated by fashioning a foreign policy that protects the region's interests, without abandoning fundamental principles. In other words, Jamaica's and the region's foreign policy can't be cynically transactional.

In that regard, there has to be more cogent explanations for seeming aberrations like our abstention in a vote at the UN on a resolution critical of Mr Trump's decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to disputed Jerusalem and the vote at the OAS in favour of a resolution that could be the precursor to kicking Venezuela out of that organisation.

It would be useful, too, for the Government to explain any agreement with Israel to establish an eavesdropping system in Jamaica and for cooperation in other areas of security.