By Ian Francis
Three months ago, I made the personal decision not to bore the readers of this medium with any further article(s) regarding the One China foreign policy position adopted by the CARICOM community but not fully adopted or recognized in many CARICOM member states. Unfortunately, recent circumstances in the region have influenced my decision to renege on my promise, for which I owe a formally apology.
Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Why was it necessary for me to renege on my promise to Caribbean News Now readers? There were four compelling circumstances that influenced my decision to write this article. These circumstances are:
1) Taipei’s decision to appeal a lower court decision in New York, which had recently ruled in Grenada’s favour to release frozen funds that were being held in escrow to satisfy an ongoing conflict between the renegade province and Grenada over the default on a bilateral loan agreement;
2) The recent concluded 33rd CARICOM Assembly in St Lucia, which was chaired by Prime Minister Kenny Anthony. In the post-assembly media briefing by Barbados Prime Minister Stuart, he was flanked on the left by Comrade Prime Minister Gonsalves of St Vincent and on the right by the host nation prime minister, Dr Anthony. Stuart touched on many regional issues, which included CARICOM’s foreign policy position of recognizing One China in the region;
3) The recent visit of a high level delegation from the People’s Congress, which included a courtesy call on Grenada’s opposition leader, Dr Keith Mitchell, during which time wide ranging discussions on future relations between St George’s and Beijing were centre piece; and
4) Since the CARICOM decision on One China was apparently reached through the proper decision making mechanism of Article 32, why have some member states chosen to vacillate on this important decision, which has turned out to be a very silent embarrassment especially for St Kitts, St Lucia and St Vincent. While Belize and Haiti remain as part of the puzzle, the writer is more concerned about the vacillating OECS nations.
The embarrassment seems much more obvious for the CARICOM organization, which seems to be its inability to implement a decision that has been taken by the Heads. I am still at a loss to understand why St Lucia, St Kitts and St Vincent continue to hold Taipei on a pedestal.
It is often time argued that a nation makes foreign policy decisions that seek to meet its interest. I have no doubt that Taipei is meeting the national development interest of these three OECS nations, so there is no urgency to sever diplomatic relations. Therefore, given their resistance toward not dumping Taipei, why did they agree to support the CARICOM decision mechanism, which was consensus for the recognition of one China in the region?
Frankly speaking, the One China policy is extremely important to the CARICOM region for two reasons. The region’s declining economies require a much needed boost in several areas, including the injection of new capital into LIAT and establishment of a vital regional shipping system. These are two specific areas that mainland China will be willing to play a role but, given the current diplomatic issue, such movements might not be possible.
However, there is still hope for some CARICOM nations to benefit from Mainland China. For example, significant development cooperation is evident in Jamaica, Guyana and to a lesser extent in Barbados and Trinidad. There have also been recent moves by Antigua to rebuild their national airport and Grenada’s desire to establish a five-star hotel that might not become a reality over the next year.
The recent Africa-People’s Republic of China development cooperation forum in Beijing could result in future success for struggling African nations. Beijing is quite conscious of the corruption of these African nations and it will endeavour to run a very tight ship, as is currently being undertaken in Zambia. Like some CARICOM states, there are also African states that have seen solace in hanging on to Taiwan. They are unlikely to be part of the $20 billion enticement.
Therefore, the defaulting CARICOM states that continue to hang on to Taipei might very well wish to review their foreign policy by seriously examining if their relations with Taipei are sustainable. It is a known fact that Taiwan has a very large and powerful economy. However, many in the global community see it as a renegade breakaway province of China that should not be embraced with open arms.
So these are the contradictions and delinquent behaviour within the region. There might be a day in the future to reckon and resolve the One China policy.
It is my firm belief that all CARICOM states should get on board and recognize one China in the region. If not, the policy decision that was taken by consensus should be revisited and reversed, thus saving further embarrassment to certain member states.