Letters & Opinion

Domestic and Foreign Policy Approach is Revisited — Part 2

More Lessons from the World’s Two Most Powerful Leaders

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

The US private sector’s response to the Xi-Biden Summit must be neither overlooked, nor underestimated, because China, as The World’s factory, is bigger business for American Big Business.

So profitable is US business in China that 94% of US businesses operating there reported astronomical profits in 2020 and 43% say they’ll invest more into expanding.

What’s so-far being highlighted by the international press from the third online summit between the world’s two most powerful leaders depends on which side one stands.

Same in the diplomatic field, where the takeaways will be shaped according to the government’s international relations policy.

Xi and Biden spoke as ‘old friends’ and ended the online meeting ‘hoping to meet again face-to-face soon,’ the recalibrated relationship now anchored by more smiles and joint statements, less public spats and measures to prevent and/or avoid any unwanted or unintended conflict over Taiwan.

The optics pleased most global observers and Beijing and Washington have again reminded the world that when it comes to Taiwan, not even their worst warlike battle cries will be allowed to translate into either a battle Taiwan cannot win, or an international military conflagration that would become World War III – which nobody anywhere wants and no side can win.

The lessons from this latest exercise in diplomatic give-and-take between the world’s two most powerful countries and leaders are many for all governments, irrespective of whether they have ties with Beijing or Taipei.

The lessons for small-island states like Saint Lucia would be similar to, as well as different from other developing countries, depending, to a greater extent, on how the government at hand sees ties with other countries — as ‘international’ or ‘external’ ‘relations’ or ‘affairs…’

Neither are the same and Saint Lucia’s ties with the rest of the world under the current administration must take into consideration such fine but hugely significant differences that will decide how the country’s diplomats abroad, new and experienced, will conduct its ‘home affairs’ or ‘domestic policies’ beyond its shores.

Diplomats today have to adjust and acclimatize to the post-COVID realities of the world today and must, of necessity, abandon traditional approaches satisfaction with being ‘Career Diplomats’ and claim related immunity from helping governments implement ruling parties’ campaign promises.

No government can deliver on its election promises without the Public Service playing its accompanying role, at home and abroad, that will give life to the promised policies the majority of voters elected for – including international relations.

Cabinet Ministers alone also cannot deliver, so it follows that one of the required roles of every Permanent Secretary should be to implement the related manifesto promises.

New as it sounds, it isn’t, as this has been in practice in the UK, where the Chief Cabinet Secretary traditionally makes the relevant sections of the winning party’s manifesto available to the respective Permanent Secretaries – including for international relations – for implementation, on the first working day after every General Elections.

Not so, though, in the Eastern Caribbean, where despite the political and governance systems are supposed to be blueprints of the Westminster Model, senior public servants still baulk at the thought of being required to give life to promises contained in a ruling party’s manifesto.

For the last three years of the previous administration, Saint Lucia quietly but slavishly implemented the Canada-led Lima Group’ pro-Washington political and diplomatic protocols against Caracas, effectively stalling acceptance of Venezuela’s nominee for the position of Ambassador to Saint Lucia.

Saint Lucia, under the previous administration, also put a financial squeeze on the Venezuelan Embassy here through application of US financial sanctions in ways that prevented the local embassy from being able to receive funds assigned by Caracas.

The then UWP Cabinet having adopted and embraced the Lima Group’s doctrine and policies, implementation was a necessity by the professionals in the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Finance, as well as local banks, resulting in the effective closure of the Venezuelan embassy for more than two years.

It also delayed appointment of the next Venezuela Ambassador to Saint Lucia.

Labour administrations having a long history of closer ties with the Bolivarian political process and the Saint Lucia’s Labour Party has strong bilateral ties with the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

Understandably, the new administration’s major first foreign policy move – even before the Cabinet was sworn-in – was Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre’s announcement of Saint Lucia’s withdrawal from the Lima Group.

As a consequence, within days, a top-level Venezuelan delegation, led by its Vice-Minister for International Affairs and including Ambassador Escalona, attended the swearing-in of the new Cabinet of Ministers.

Likewise, a new Cuban Ambassador to Saint Lucia was nominated by Havana under the previous administration and indeed arrived here in time to replace his outgoing predecessor (as per usual), only to have the process of accreditation put on the back burner alongside that of the Venezuelan nominee, equally delayed for months.

Here again, it’s taken this administration, within weeks of taking office, to complete the outstanding processes by overcoming the diplomatic hurdles created to delay and hopefully frustrate Havana and Caracas.

In his first 100 Days back at the helm at the Ministry of External Affairs, External Affairs Minister Alva Baptiste has said and done nearly all expected of a seasoned minister who’s ‘been there and done all that’, but who also recognizes how times and politics have both been subject to related climate changes since the advent of the COVID pandemic.

His parliamentary presentation (last Tuesday) accounting for his First 100 Days at the helm of the island’s international relations department was a most-welcome reassurance that the again re-elected ‘President of the People’s Republic of Laborie’ is quite aware of what applicable uploads and downloads to engage in interpreting the lessons from the Xi-Biden Summit.

Similarly, by again opting not to blindly embrace the failed policy of playing proverbial ‘Ping Pong’ or ‘Checkbook’ Diplomacy between Beijing and Taipei, this Labour administration shows, crystal-clear, that it will choose its international associations on the basis of national consideration first and foremost, without dishonouring historical friendships or yielding to the excesses associated with the very sorry history of Saint Lucia’s receipt, allocation and expenditure of Taiwanese assistance since 2007.

The lessons from the third virtual Xi-Biden Summit are definitely not lost on those still willing to view international ties beyond the limited vision of tainted views through tinted spectacles, as nothing more than foreign extensions of domestic affairs.

Such approaches, from Saint Lucia’s experience, can often lead to persons at the helm at ministries responsible for international relations being accused of mixing-up home affairs with foreign affairs and allowing domestic affairs to also extend to foreign affairs.

But Minister Baptiste, a vote-winner by nature, seems and sounds destined to ensure that Saint Lucia’s international relations and the value of his own currency in national politics, are both protected and preserved, at all times, under his watch.

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