What ahead for Ja-US re­la­tions?

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Ned Brown Guest Colum­nist

SOME OF the best lessons for mod­ern­day pol­i­tics and bet­ter re­la­tions be­tween two coun­tries are of­ten learned from sto­ries of decades ago.

Ja­maica en­joyed no bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with a US Pres­i­dent than that with John F. Kennedy. Kennedy had been vis­it­ing Ja since 1950, and was good friends with the deLisser and Pringle fam­i­lies. He in­vited both Norman Man­ley and Alexan­der Bus­ta­mante to the White House, with pri­vate vis­its in the Oval Of­fice, be­fore Ja­maica’s In­de­pen­dence.

Kennedy would pro­vide what­ever as­sis­tance Ja­maica re­quired – par­tic­u­larly af­ter Fidel Cas­tro’s takeover of Cuba. Af­ter the death of Pres­i­dent Kennedy, Ja­maica’s re­la­tions with the new pres­i­dent, Lyn­don Baines John­son, were less close, and Prime Min­is­ter Bus­ta­mante knew this.


It all stemmed from John­son’s ego, and his feel­ing that he played “sec­ond fid­dle” to HRH Princess Mar­garet dur­ing the in­de­pen­dence cel­e­bra­tions of Au­gust 1962. John­son felt he should be the grand poohbah as he drove the streets of Ja­maica, and not the young princess. John­son’s mem­ory of per­sonal slights was long through­out his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

The fol­low­ing is an ex­cerpt from my forth­com­ing book on Ja­maica, which af­firms the bril­liant po­lit­i­cal skills of Busta, and has rel­e­vance to the new US Congress about to be seated in Jan­uary 2019.

Bus­ta­mante told Rock­e­feller that he was the founder of the Ja­maican Labour Party, and mayor of Kingston at the time of Aldrich’s visit. A fast friend­ship de­vel­oped be­tween the prime min­is­ter of a small coun­try, a scion of Amer­ica’s most pow­er­ful fam­ily, and the gover­nor of the state where the world’s fi­nan­cial cen­tre resided. At one solemn oc­ca­sion, Bus­ta­mante had shrewdly made two valu­able new friends from both the Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic par­ties.

What does this past week’s US elec­tion out­come por­tend for Ja-US re­la­tions? Ac­tu­ally, the prospects are very good. Ja­maica al­ready has ex­cel­lent re­la­tions with a num­ber of Demo­cratic lead­ers in the new House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives: Eliot En­gel, Carolyn Maloney, Max­ine Waters, Yvette Clarke and oth­ers. My point is that the Ja po­lit­i­cal class (both the JLP and PNP par­ties) have an op­por­tu­nity to re-en­gage with the new House lead­er­ship for the good of the coun­try.

Where are the op­por­tu­ni­ties? First, no one should dis­count the sig­nif­i­cant bi­lat­eral re­la­tions Ja has estab­lished with China. While the terms are some­times dis­ad­van­ta­geous to Ja­maica, bor­row­ing money at two per cent, at le­nient terms, is a good deal. How­ever, there are ar­eas where the Hol­ness Gov­ern­ment should en­gage with the new US Congress, while con­tin­u­ing their work through the nor­mal diplo­matic chan­nels:

Power, power, power – cheap, abun­dant elec­tric­ity is the key to Ja’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Part­ner­ing to de­velop more wind and so­lar, while con­vert­ing to low­er­cost LNG-pow­ered plants, is key to eco­nomic growth.

Agri­cul­ture – part­ner with US com­pa­nies to cre­ate de­mand for Ja­maican cof­fee, and get higher prices than what Ja­pan is of­fer­ing. Ganja- the money trans­fer is­sue will even­tu­ally get re­solved with the US Trea­sury. Cana­dian and US cannabis grow­ers want to be part of Ja ganja de­vel­op­ment. Cli­mate change and fouled water are dev­as­tat­ing cit­rus grow­ing and pro­cess­ing in Florida; it needs to be re­lo­cated to Ja, where land, clean water and sunshine are plen­ti­ful.

Light man­u­fac­tur­ing – for more than a cen­tury, Ja­maica’s prin­ci­pal trad­ing part­ner to the north was the port of Charleston. South Carolina is now a ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­tre for Boe­ing, BMW, Volvo and Siemens. There is no rea­son why Ja­maica could not be a sup­plier of smaller, so­phis­ti­cated com­po­nents to these as­sem­bly op­er­a­tions. And, it is less than a two-day voy­age by cargo ship be­tween the ports of Ja­maica and Charleston.

What’s the sales pitch from the Ja­maican Gov­ern­ment to the US gov­ern­ment? Ja­maica and the US have en­joyed a prof­itable trad­ing re­la­tion­ship since the late 17th cen­tury. Tourism is vi­tally im­por­tant be­tween both coun­tries. Ja­maica is of strate­gic mil­i­tary, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic im­por­tance in the Caribbean.

It is in Amer­ica’s (in­clud­ing the US and Canada) in­ter­est to pro­vide more op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ja­maicans, and as­sist with sus­tained eco­nomic and jobs growth. Good poker play­ers know that the hand you play is the one dealt ya. Ja­maica has a good one, and many op­por­tu­ni­ties with the new Demo­crat­ic­con­trolled US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Ned Brown is a ‘re­form­ing’ Washington, DC, gov­ern­ment af­fairs ad­viser, which means that he will be work­ing, as needed, with the new Demo­cratic lead­er­ship. He now writes full-time, and is com­plet­ing a book on up­scale Ja­maica tourism from 1946 through present day. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.


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