Martin Henry | Jamaica and the world post-G7 meeting
We may be too absorbed in our domestic issues, small and big, to have really noticed how much the world and our own country have changed in the wake of the summit of G7 nations that was just held in Canada. Or as one observer put it, it was more a G6 Summit plus 1. The Others plus the United States.
We have been consumed with Delano Seiveright's travel bill for tourism as a partisan public servant. The dollar has slipped into the 130s zone, reaching its lowest ever exchange rate since its birth in 1969, with the warning by gas sellers and others of price increases.
But bigger than Seiveright's travel bill and the dip of the dollar is the fact, which seems to bother us much less, that Windalco is struggling to pay its bills, including workers' salaries. Why? The bauxite company is owned by UC Rusal, which is owned by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, against whom the US government has imposed sanctions. And banks, foreign and local, don't want to deal with Windalco for fear of being sanctioned themselves.
We talk down our own country a lot. But Prime Minister Andrew Holness was a star at the outreach session at the G7 Summit at which leaders of other non-G7 nations were invited to present. Like other prime ministers before him in international forums Holness delivered a comprehensive, thoughtful, bigger-than-Jamaica presentation, which did not fawn and did not beg, but proposed partnerships around common interests like the environment, trade and investment and economic growth, and debt management. The Sunday Gleaner (June 10) reported the day after the speech, 'Development road map - Holness outlines route to G7 leaders'.
The prime minister had hardly tucked away his well-crafted script when the invitations from other leaders present started pouring in. Mauricio Macri, the president of Argentina, wants him at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires. Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway, wants him at the Special Oceans Summit in Oslo.
Holness, in his presentation, explored the deepening of cooperation on trade, agriculture, and air services with Kenyatta. He also sought to increase technical assistance for the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) with Norway. The government of Norway has given partner assistance to the CMU since its inception. Holness and Solberg also explored collaboration on research on fisheries and ocean resources. Holness also explored ways of strengthening cooperation in agriculture with Argentina and cementing advocacy regarding climate change and small island developing states.
I have to part company with my newspaper and others who push the view that our country lacks a robust, clear, and coherent foreign policy. Or is weak in elements of its foreign relations. The Gleaner editorialised on Thursday (June 14): "... Jamaica doesn't, at this time, appear to have a coherent and clearly articulated foreign policy." Foreign affairs, like tourism, is one of the shining segments of this administration, which is dogged with the usual problems of governance in this relatively poor, chaotic, high crime, low growth, highly indebted country.
The decisions on Venezuela, Cuba, Israel, and the Palestinians, Brexit and the EU, the Trump presidency, China, and on CARICOM are pragmatic and sound decisions balancing interests and difficult relations by a small and vulnerable nation state that intends to survive and flourish in a challenging world. Which is exactly what a robust, clear, and coherent foreign policy should do.
This is almost like the common law in the English legal tradition, which emerges out of custom, court decisions, and precedence compared to legislated statute law. Common sense at work.
The budding relations with Kenya, one of the more stable and progressive African states, with Argentina, Norway - and with Israel - are further steps in the right direction. The five-year timeline for CARICOM to become more responsive to Jamaica's interests and concerns is a tough and sensible decision.
The leader of the Plus 1, Donald Trump, huffed away from one of the most important G7 Summits before it ended, leaving behind a trail of abuse for the host, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and into one of the most important summits of our times, the US-North Korea Summit in Singapore.
G7 Summits can be contentious affairs. But this one was a watershed in geopolitics, in global relations, and in history. The meeting was held in the shadow of US tariffs against its 'friends' and others on steel and aluminium to get at China. Canada and the EU are the largest suppliers of steel to the United States. The meeting discussed the deep environmental challenges facing the planet while the US, under Trump, has already withdrawn from the Paris Accord on climate change.
The Trump Government has declared multilateralism dead and it was most probably interred with this G7 meeting. The G6 Summit communique, which the US refused to sign, may not be worth the paper it is written on despite the brave face the Group has tried to put on the fiasco. The Trump presidency is pushing imperial unilateral actions across a broad front and getting away with it. Opponents whine but do nothing. And every bully is strengthened by non-resistance and acquiescence.
Trump is not only rude and crude but is quite shrewd. His mocking detractors among men and nations are making a huge mistake not to recognise that they are up against a master strategist with a single-eyed game plan and with the mightiest military, economic and diplomatic power this world has ever seen at his disposal.
Unlike the G7 'fiasco', the US-North Korea Summit ended with a joint declaration of "tremendous success". World analysts like the syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer, who appears in this newspaper, who see Trump as an unpredictable and coarse buffoon, immediately weighed in against any "tremendous success" for the Trump-Kim Jung-Un Summit. "If Trump had had a little more time in Singapore," Dyer wrote on June 13, he could have bought a T-shirt saying that 'My president went to Singapore and all I got was this lousy T-shirt' and taken it home to give to the American people."
The on-off-on approach to the Summit was itself sheer high-stakes strategy. The leader of the Hermit Kingdom has been drawn out into the light. Like Ronald Reagan with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Trump senses that North Korea (and China), now seemingly impregnable, as inherently unstable communist states, is destined to collapse. More from within than without.
The Big Analysts should learn a little more from recent history and from political and economic theory. Kim's exposure is deadly for the North Korean state. And unless he is a mad man, and Trump, the TV showman and billionaire businessman, judges him "talented", he will never deploy a nuclear weapon. This would be a Samson decision leading to the obliteration of the North Korean state in overwhelming retaliatory strikes.
When World War II war hero General Douglas McArthur was military governor of defeated Japan, he insisted on taking and publishing across Japanese newspapers a photograph with himself, a towering man, and the diminutive god-Emperor Hirohito. That photo, more than any other single thing, demystified and de-deified the emperor and consolidated American power. I can imagine a similar outcome from a Trump-Kim Singapore Summit photograph.
America has been uncharacteristically lamb-like in its wielding of vast imperial power but is increasingly conscious of its capacity to act unilaterally in its own perceived interests and increasingly willing to do so. The escathological prophets shout, "We told you so!"
- Martin Henry is a university administrator. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org