Wed | Feb 24, 2021

US-Ja relations – address one issue at a time

Published:Tuesday | November 24, 2020 | 12:06 AM


Ambassador Curtis Ward’s reminisces of US-Jamaica relations from three decades ago are pleasant (Biden’s foreign policy: return of American global leadership – The Gleaner November 15) but not very indicative of the path ahead. A few general comments, and then some specific to US-Jamaica relations:

• The Biden foreign policy will have a less bellicose tone than Trump (“it’s my way or the highway”), but the president-elect and his team will spend considerable time and monies focused on rebuilding the US economy in his first term if he wants a second term.

• US-China relations will be less confrontational and more competitive in the future. Former US Treasury Secretaries Summers and Paulson spoke eloquently about this during the past week. However, President Xi and his mignons do not compete fairly on the world stage or in Jamaica. Expect them to be called out by the Biden team. And China always works its interests with the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) and not the interests of the host country.

• Trump views Venezuela as a political-economic problem. The Biden team views what has happened in Venezuela, and to its people, as a humanitarian failure. Expect to see more resources quickly from Washington to stabilise that horrendous situation and deal with Maduro in the process.

• Jamaica is facing a fiscal and economic crisis for many months ahead. Charleston, South Carolina, which is my home base, receives over seven million visitors per year. Tourism is still down 60-70 per cent from pre-pandemic levels. American tourists will spend their dollars in the US before they risk getting on a plane to fly to Jamaica for a holiday. The drop in tourism dollars, and the cost of dealing with the COVID crisis, puts a tremendous strain on Ja’s fiscal finances.

• Jamaica’s options for economic assistance are few. The IMF’s emergency funds are tapped out. The US and the UK have to deal with declining GDP’s at home, and then add economic stimulus.

• The financial news is not all bad. US private interests have large pools of capital sitting undeployed on the sidelines. The Holness Government has to figure out how to make Jamaica a more attractive place to invest in. A US Ambassador to Jamaica, who has ties to the US business and financial communities, would be helpful in making introductions and starting the investment process.

Actually, the path forward for better US-Jamaica relations is analogous to the problems with Ja’s roads: you fill one pothole or repair one washed-out road, one at a time. Not so much a grand plan, but improvements people can see and believe in. Stay safe. Remain strong. Better days ahead.


Political Adviser

Author: The Caribbean Golden

Era: Jamaica 1946-1962

Charleston, South Carolina