Is Obama or Romney better for the Caribbean?

SUCH is the continuing power of the United States that all over the
world, governments and organisations are concerned about what a US
presidency of either incumbent Barack Obama or hopeful Mitt Romney will
mean to them.
After four years as president, the world already knows what kind of
foreign policy Obama would seek to implement. It will be forceful in
defence of what Obama sees as the interests of the United States, and
while it will try to work with other governments and through the United
Nations Security Council, it will not stop short of taking unilateral
action against any country that it believes poses a threat to the United
States. It will also continue to advance a programme of promoting human
rights and civil liberties in countries where it is felt such rights
and liberties are stifled and democracy is suppressed.

In this regard, a new Obama Administration will continue to take a tough
line with Iran for as long as it is convinced that the Iranian
Government is working toward building a nuclear capability that could be
used against Israel and maybe further afield. Regrettably, it will also
continue its drone warfare in Pakistan and Afghanistan where hundreds
of innocent people are being killed as ‘collateral damage’ as the US
Government hunts persons believed to be terrorists associated with
al-Qaeda.
Syria may also be ratcheted up the foreign policy priorities as efforts
intensify to bring an end to both the relentless killing of civilians in
clashes between the Assad regime and opposition forces, and the
burdensome flood of refugees to neighbouring states.
On the global economic front, relations with China will continue to be a
major preoccupation as the US Government tries to mitigate the
challenges it faces from what it portrays as China’s unfair trade
advantages arising from subsidised production and an undervalued
currency.
The Obama Administration will undoubtedly continue its strategy of
negotiation with China and complaints to the dispute settlement
body of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Mitt Romney has given the world a flavour of the kind of foreign policy
he will pursue in several speeches he made during his campaign. There is
no doubt that in the Middle East, although he says he will “recommit
America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living
side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel”, he
will favour Israel’s interest above all others.
As he said, “the world must never see any daylight between our two
nations”. He will also militarise the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf
region by restoring the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task
forces, and he will be even tougher on Iran than Obama has been by
imposing new sanctions. Further, he will challenge Russia by expanding
themilitary capacity of the US, and he will seek to strengthen the North
Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) so that all of its 28 members
devote two per cent of their GDP to security spending (only three do so
now).
With regard to China, Romney has made it clear that on the trade front
he will “confront China’s cheating” and he will “maintain appropriate
military capabilities to discourage any aggressive or coercive behaviour
by China against its neighbours (including Taiwan)”.
The choices, therefore, appear to be between the Romney method of a more
militaristic and aggressive US Government globally that seeks to place
American power as the foundation of an international system, and the
Obama approach that will use American power to defend American interests
but would be willing to secure consensus as the basis for the
functioning of the international order.
It would seem that the world would be a less confrontational place under Obama than under Romney.
With regard to the Caribbean, it is already known that the Obama
presidency has not been helpful to the region and in some ways it has
been harmful, particularly in the financial services sector, in climate
change, and in a lack of responsiveness to development needs.
The Caribbean’s financial services have been hurt, both by the labelling
of many of them as “tax havens” and by the Foreign Account Tax
Compliance Act (FATCA) which extends US jurisdiction into the Caribbean
with a heavy compliance cost to Caribbean financial institutions. It is
impacting government revenues and curtailing savings in banks by
Caribbean nationals who are also nationals or residents of the United
States.
As regards climate change, during the Rio+20 Conference last June, the
US refused to affirm an earlier commitment to transfer technology to
developing countries. It equally refused to reaffirm any commitment to
providing new and additional financial resources.
Obama’s help to the region has been primarily on curbing drug
trafficking. But this is as much — if not more — in America’ s
interests as the region’s. The focus on interdiction and not on
providing resources for education, job creation, and poverty alleviation
is not tackling the region’s fundamental problems.
Under Romney, there is unlikely to be any change in the Obama policies
toward the Caribbean — except maybe in the strictures on the financial
services sector, since Romney himself is a beneficiary of financial
vehicles in the Cayman Islands.
Policies toward Cuba and Venezuela would appear to be the biggest
difference in policy approaches between Obama and Romney. Romney has
made it clear that he will return to tight sanctions against Cuba and he
will not allow Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Castro’s Cuba to “lead a
virulently anti-American ‘Bolivarian’ movement across Latin America that
seeks to undermine institutions of democratic governance and economic
opportunity”. He has also said he wants “market-based economic
relationships”.
Against this background, there is not much in the presidency of Obama or
Romney for the Caribbean specifically. But the world would be less
contentious with America at least trying multilateral solutions before
unilateral coercion.
 
Ronald Sanders is a consultant and former Caribbean diplomat

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