Rebecca Theodore is an international journalist and syndicated Op-ed columnist based in NYC. She writes on the platform of national security, politics, and human rights.

CARICOM and the Caribbean in the Changing International Order: Towards a new foreign policy?

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Charged by the Treaty of Chaguaramas to present a communal forward-facing picture to the external world, politically and economically, the member states of the Caribbean Community are now faced with the new theatrical deviations of the international order. Mingled with the crippling of the international economy and trade systems, the collapse of global food security, transportation and distribution networks, loss of exportation incentives and importation, and extensive climatic stress on the agroecosystems, the themes of a new foreign policy for the small states of the  Caribbean are resurrecting the structure for a complete rearrangement of Caribbean politics as we know it.

And blind resistance suggests, that the Caribbean must now develop a unified cohesive foreign policy, as it fast approaches its moment of economic and political reckoning. 

According to statistics, economic growth in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has been slow in the last two decades averaging just 1.8 percent per year. This means that the tasks of CARICOM in coordinating the foreign policies of its member states within the new international order will be stressed by human, technical, and financial resource limitations, geopolitical modifications that mandate proactive and pre-emptive policies, and cultural, political socio-economic variances as well.

Although the Caribbean community has developed and expanded economic relations with the United States, Canada, and the European Union, at the same time, the Community must also re-arrange the groundwork to meet the complex trials involved in the global world order. 

It is true, that the creation of the negotiating bloc of Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean (ACP) enabled the Caribbean to protect its interests, yet, the Caribbean also need effective positioning in the international arena, inclusive of health, infrastructure, energy, climate, technology, and public safety if it is to gain a place in the changing international economic and political order.

In this regard, CARICOM states are yet to come to terms with the diplomatic practices needed to discuss the ways to face regional economic liberalization collectively.  The revised treaty of  Chaguaramas sought to consolidate a single market and a single economy,  “but the process of implementation has been such that the community, as a developing single economic system gives the impression of stagnation,” – an image that is clearly seen in the prolonged recessionary conditions in key countries like  Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent, Barbados and Antigua, and Barbuda and  Trinidad and Tobago

In short, CARICOM states have not come to any explicit suppositions as to what this new projection in a global order necessitates. 

It is great for CARICOM’s Secretary-General, Irwin Larocque to stress that “the challenge is knowing how small and vulnerable states should best respond to this new geopolitical situation in a coherent way, and in their own best self-interest,”  yet, it cannot be denied that Caribbean foreign policy will depend among other things, on the value of the business milieu that it seeks to create, the global set of policies that affect the starting and running of businesses, and how they are implemented and accomplished.

Whereas the Caribbean silent crisis in its foreign affiliation with its outmoded partners in North America and Europe has given rise to greater stress being laid on security, the environment, an increase in development assistance as it relates to the  International Monetary Fund, and a desire for better dialogue in international forums; the prospect for a new foreign policy for Caribbean states still remain impaired.  Clearly, the Caribbean has become a showground of rivalry for influencing both superpowers and regional middle powers.  Competing claims of political rivals, like China and its silk and belt initiative, and the undeserved external interference motivated by territorial aggrandizement of Russia and Iran, now raises the importance of the Caribbean to its US strategic interests. 

 And for this, the US must be made to understand that post-cold war security concerns about communism no longer shape US Caribbean foreign policy and that the Monroe doctrine is no more.  US economic initiatives cannot be only narrowed off to narcotics, immigration, and concerns about preferential tax regimes alone.  US Caribbean foreign policy also means supporting economic and social objectives. US Caribbean foreign policy also means boosting banking sector resilience, as financial sectors in some Caribbean countries remain burdened by meager asset quality, low profitability, and deficient capital. 

Moreover, the emergence of globalization and liberalization are also mooring the Caribbean into new frontiers.  The economies of most Caribbean states are metropolitan economies and are thus defenseless to changes in the political-economic systems based on the decisions of those metropolitan powers.

Given the foregoing, critics may argue that positioning the Caribbean on the international order may be inconsistent with the Caribbean vote in the UN system.  Undeniably, attitudes towards the Caribbean by many G7 countries are changing within the internal bureaucracy of the United Nations, and for this, the Caribbean’s position in international organizations must also improve for more effective bilateral relations. 

Essentially, the changing tenets of internationalism demand that the Caribbean community must now craft the required mechanism needed to present a mutual position to the external world in economic affairs, and also reinforce itself to contribute in major global discussions. At a time when the Caribbean is unable to defend its existing economic self-interest new geopolitical remedies are urgently needed.