The erstwhile administration of Donald Trump was obsessed with Cuba and Venezuela for obvious reasons. But the tunnel-visioning as a result of parochial politics made sure they were the only two countries in the Western Hemisphere that could merit the attention of the great United States.
The adversarial attention paid to Venezuela has also shown in itself in the prospects held in the oil finds by Guyana. Venezuela and Guyana are currently at loggerheads over borderlands.
Caribbean countries were also in the mind of Trump when he infamously rejected the idea of opening up American immigration from “shithole” countries.
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Some would argue American languor towards Caribbean nations preceded the Trump administration. Indeed, although President Barack Obama was honorably invested in friendly relations with Cuba, not much attention was paid to other countries in the region. This is in spite of the close commercial and cultural relations between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries and their much larger and more powerful neighbor in the north.
Oil and gas from Trinidad and Tobago alone are responsible for close to 80% of what the United States imports from CARICOM. Americans continue to be the single biggest group of holidaymakers in The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. From the United States, CARICOM countries import for nearly every aspect of daily life. All of this comes on top of the one in twenty Americans who has Caribbean ancestry.
The fraction may seem small but now, that demographic has presented in Vice-President Kamala Harris, an opportunity for both CARICOM and the United States to forge past the strains of yesteryears. Of course, the administration will see how the vice-president will be used in rebuilding trust between the two parties but bets are that it will happen at a point.
The Harris-factor has not gone unnoticed by writers who observe relations between the Caribbean nations and the United States. But writing for the South Florida Caribbean News, Wesley Kirton was thankful that President Joe Biden‘s promised global agenda focuses were effectively the concerns of CARICOM countries. Chief among these include the devastating effects of climate change and the management of the crises going forward.
Most Caribbean countries lack the wherewithal to forestall or manage natural disasters and have increasingly been worried about that for about a decade. Biden has already re-entered the monumental Paris Climate Agreement that implores signatories to embrace an approach of global solidarity in tackling the existential challenge.
Global health is also on the agenda and now more than ever, America’s commitment to countries in the global south is pertinent. As COVID-19 ravages lives and economies, America would need to show the leadership required to overcome such World Health Organization (WHO) fears including vaccine hoarding by countries and price-gouging by pharmaceutical companies.
By the end of 2020, the U.S. considered many Caribbean countries “high-risk”. However, only six countries in the Americas – United States, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, and Argentina – reportedly had coronavirus vaccines after the first week of this year. Caribbean countries, which are mostly less-developed, have signed on to the WHO’s COVAX program that will deliver vaccines in the coming weeks.
Immigration and tourism, the main source of foreign exchange for a majority of CARICOM countries, will also undoubtedly find themselves among the issues the new administration and CARICOM will have to talk about. While the plans for rejuvenating Caribbean tourism will have to be factored into the overall scheme to overcome the coronavirus, Biden has already signed an executive order halting deportations that were accelerated by his predecessor.