In this ever-evolving world, a clearly articulated foreign policy with room for change and adjustment is crucial. International relations and diplomacy are much more than diplomats, ambassadors and travelling. In the Jamaican context, diplomatic relations affect all areas of our lives- trade, investment, industry, tourism, education, culture, development, inter alia, are all linked to our foreign relations.
Does Jamaica have a well articulated foreign policy within the context of international and regional organisations such as CARICOM and the OAS? As the largest English speaking country in the Caribbean, have we after 51 years articulated and employed a holistic and integrated foreign relations policy?
Individual Caricom countries have found themselves subject to the dictates of external forces for far too long. Even as a collective, the small size of Caricom countries, their population and markets do not make them powerful, they are able to bargain more strongly together than they can individually. Caricom leaders at the upcoming heads of government meeting in Port of Spain must identify the African, Latin American and Pacific countries as well as Commonwealth nations to enhance and strengthen existing economic and trade relationships and to create new strategic ones which can include joint Caribbean overseas diplomatic missions.
Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade across the region must be more aggressive in its establishments of bilateral ties with more developing countries. Jamaica for example has strong and historic relations with the developed world, but we are lagging behind in establishing investment and trade ties with emerging economies in the Middle East. Our presence on the African and Asian continents is still not yet strong enough.
For more than 50 years, Jamaica has had strong diplomatic and cultural relations with strategic powerhouses like Ethiopia, India and Israel; it is therefore surprising that we don’t have a High Commission or Embassy in either of the said countries to propel Jamaica as the ultimate tourism, cultural, trade and investment destination.
If the Jamaican and Caricom governments recognise the need to attract and inspire global foreign investors, would it not be prudent to adopt a new and integrated approach to foreign, trade and immigration policy planning?
However Jamaica and other Caricom countries are moving in the right direction to foster trade and tourism relations by waving visas for some countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe. We must leverage our strengths, inclusive of our strategic locations to do more business with countries like India, Russia, Ethiopia, Israel, Qatar, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, South Korea, Indonesia and South Africa. In this regard, the link between Foreign Policy and Trade Policy is going to be crucial. To support the efforts of the region’s private and manufacturing sector, Caricom leaders should explore the establishment of a Caribbean investment and promotion agency with the right mix of government support and private sector initiative to coordinate and actively seek potential investment for the region. .