And now for a US-Caricom lobby
Tuesday, June 26th 2007
Trinidad Express Opinion
WE have reported that there was lusty applause in the Hall of the
Americas at the Organisation of American States in Washington last
Thursday, when Dr Denzil Douglas announced that a Caricom lobby is
to be developed to represent the region's interest in the US.
In wrapping up the historic US Conference on the Caribbean, the
St Kitts Nevis Prime Minister said it was one of the ringing
declarations from the conference, that West Indians in the American
diaspora had been recognised as a critical resource.
He said that resource would now be built upon, and configured
into an important Caribbean lobby, to intervene on the region's
behalf with the Washington power brokers.
This is one of the more effective ways in which views get taken
into account, concerns get taken on board and policy gets formulated
in the US congressional system.
Caribbean countries have historically sought to maintain an
expensive presence in the US capital. Many if not all of them have
hired equally expensive US lobbyists, with varying degrees of
success. It is probably well established now that these arrangements
have not yielded the kind of successes envisaged.
For more than a decade now under the rubric of functional
co-operation, the region's leaders have been talking about joint
representation in the councils of world business and diplomacy. This
too, has faltered badly. And in addressing the several areas in
which he said there was encouraging "understanding" on the part of
the US congressional leaders Dr Douglas referred to the need for
Assistance for Haiti, the need for support in health development,
the fight against HIV/AIDS, measures to compensate for the
continuing brain drain and the export of trained, skilled labour,
crime and counter-terrorism measures, and the vexing deportee
All these and more were raised during the meetings with the US
President, the Secretary of State and others. They will require
focused follow through if they are not going to wither and die on
the vine of promise and potential. From Miami to New York, from
Boston to Chicago and Los Angeles, West Indian nationals can be
found who are able, ready and willing to be pressed into the service
of the region.
Many of them have developed enormous experience in how the
American system works. They can render the kind of assistance
necessary to win support for measures in the US congress in the
interest of the region. Notwithstanding the practical realities
which will maintain the need for bilateral relations, Caricom member
states must move now to consolidate on two fronts their interactions
with their biggest trading partner.
The retention of separate professional lobbying firms must be
reviewed in favour of the longed-for joint representation. And on
top of that Caribbean nationals must be encouraged to develop the
critical mass necessary for getting the policy makers in Washington
to listen and to respond.