Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Johnson Smith bristles against headwinds of COVID-19 nationalism

Published:Thursday | May 21, 2020 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (left) gives the thumbs up while Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, head of the European Union (EU) Delegation, operates a retractable bed, alongside Lainsworth Walker, technical director of Medical Link. The EU donated J$80 million worth of medical equipment and supplies yesterday towards the fight against COVID-19. Looking on in the background is Belgium Ambassador Hugo Verbist.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (left) gives the thumbs up while Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, head of the European Union (EU) Delegation, operates a retractable bed, alongside Lainsworth Walker, technical director of Medical Link. The EU donated J$80 million worth of medical equipment and supplies yesterday towards the fight against COVID-19. Looking on in the background is Belgium Ambassador Hugo Verbist.

The Jamaican Government is pushing back against the pro-nationalist and protectionist ideology sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, with its most senior foreign-policy official warning political administrations to stay true to the agenda of globalisation.

That inward-looking sentiment appears to already be on display in US-China relations, with conspiracy theories over the genesis of the new coronavirus furthing chafing relations between President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping.

How Jamaica prepares for potential geopolitical shifts in multilateral relations and trade in response to COVID-19 is a challenge that will have to be met with robust cooperation, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith has asserted.

Johnson Smith was speaking with The Gleaner on the sidelines of yesterday’s handover of medical equipment and supplies from the European Union (EU) valued at €535,000 (J$80 million) to help bolster the country’s health system and fight the coronavirus.

The minister said the concerns were raised in a meeting she co-chaired with Canada of diplomats from member states of the United Nations (UN), along with the UN secretary general special envoy for financing of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN special envoy for climate change.

“There could be moves towards nationalism where governments are politically incentivised to focus on a domestic response to employment and to economic growth,” said Johnson Smith.

“But we all agreed that even those tendencies will not divert the world from recognising that a collective response and a collaborative response is key for the world to recover, the fact being that COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease that has affected the world from a health perspective, from an economic perspective, from social-cohesion perspectives, as well as political.”

Johnson Smith stressed that amid political and economic challenges, she believed that the world broadly agreed and recognised that it is only through full global collaboration that “we will emerge stronger”.

RELUCTANCE TO PURCHASE

An article appearing in British newspaper, the Express, reported that a recent survey by Deutsche Bank’s big data platform showed that American and Chinese consumers have started swearing off the others products.

Forty-one per cent of Americans canvassed said that they would not buy a China-made product again, while China has seen a 35 per cent loss of appetite for American-produced items.

The EU showed its commitment to multilateralism yesterday by donating a second tranche of medical supplies to the health sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the EU donated 29 ventilators to the Government of Jamaica.

The two batches of equipment are valued at about €1.3 million (approximately J$220 million).

A third shipment is to arrive shortly, bringing the total value to approximately J$289 million.

The shipment consists of 21 critical-care electric beds, 39 patient monitors, 33 infusion pumps, 10 defibrillators, six transport patient monitors, and other equipment specifically for maternal care and childcare.

The supplies were purchased by CEDI Europe BV from Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey under the EU-funded Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality.

“The EU and its member states are committed to supporting the fight against the coronavirus. We know only too well that the only way to stop its spread is by working together,” Wasilewska said at the brief.

“Within this context, our aim is to support Jamaica to strengthen the national health system to save lives and preserve people’s health and well-being.”

The ambassador noted that in the spirit of solidarity and friendship, the EU was accelerating previously planned actions and will be extending further support to Jamaica’s health sector in short order.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com