Tue | Feb 19, 2019

Editorial | Johnson Smith can make foreign affairs sexy

Published:Wednesday | January 16, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Foreign policy has traditionally been viewed as stuffy, complicated and indigestible, the kind of topic that occupies academics and diplomats at high tea in a snooze fest. In fact, it's often been the retirement home of a greying class of political journeymen or patriots, a parting gift for long service to party and country.

But in this age of an increasingly interconnected world where bilateral and multilateral forces trigger domestic tremors and have wide-scale global consequences, a more educated Jamaican population is grasping the gravity and reach of international relations.

In this the age of the blustery buffoonery of Donald Trump and dramatic pregnancy of Brexit, we believe Jamaicans are recognising the sociopolitical implications that foreign policy holds for the local economy.

Kamina Johnson Smith, the first woman assigned oversight of the foreign affairs and trade portfolio in a Jamaican Cabinet, has a unique opportunity to transform foreign policy from an inaccessible, otherworldly concept to a bread-and-butter issue. We make that proposition not as some backhanded gesture of chauvinism because she's a woman, but because local interest in matters of international intrigue has scarcely been higher.

Prime Minister Theresa May's 230-vote humiliating defeat of her bid to push through a deal for Brexit, Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, has consequences for one of Jamaica's major trading partners, and its ramifications stretch to our shores.

President Trump's arrogant, impudent and stubborn stance on his ill-conceived border wall is slowly bringing to a crawl administrative state services, with the looming shutdown of the American government bound to have repercussions that could soon impact the Jamaican economy.

Meanwhile, the diplomatic impasse between Kingston and Caracas over the planned takeover of Venezuela's 49 per cent stake in the state oil refinery, Petrojam, as well as Jamaica's Organization of American States vote denouncing the legitimacy of the Maduro regime, also provide a fitting platform for the Government to connect with the Jamaican people.

This is as auspicious as any a moment for Mrs Johnson Smith to embrace stewardship of her portfolio and make the Jamaican populace conversant with the breadth and depth of foreign policy and its impact on domestic affairs. Her press conference on Monday, aimed, we suspect, at defusing suspicion of collusion by, and deflecting blame from, the Holness administration was a welcome first step in what we hope will be a renewed commitment to engagement with the public.