AT A TIME when global developments have become increasingly fraught, endangering productive relationships between markets and multi-lateral commerce hubs, China’s invitation to this country presents an important opportunity for strengthening ties with a global economic superpower.
While there are signs of improvements in the local economy, we cannot afford to become complacent. If TT is to realise the twin goals of recovery and of achieving developed nation status, we will have to rely on international partners to provide capital, technical capability as well as the training and support needed to bolster our sustainability. Therefore, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s visit to China this week is squarely in the public interest.
Collaboration on infrastructure development is just one key area which should be addressed. Rowley is expected to engage in talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on a range of issues including finance, technology, tourism, construction and the airline industry. While Xi has advocated a One Belt and One Road approach to global trade, that approach has focussed on Eurasian countries. However, there is no reason why this approach to deeper global trade integration cannot extend to this country and the wider Caribbean, particularly given our status as an important hub in the Americas.
There are also pressing matters that the talks should address, including the problem of crime and the targeting of Chinese nationals by criminals; the fate of Chinese-backed mega projects which require maintenance, repair or outfitting; and the need to leverage our historic and cultural links with Asia.
But the trip with China will also coincide with a visit to Australia, the second such visit by a sitting TT Prime Minister. Talks with Australia are expected to cover national security issues, finance, and the possibility of purchasing ferries for the domestic sea bridge. As to the latter, now is the time for the Prime Minister to build on his talks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last month at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London. Having taken up the responsibility for resolving the issue of inter-island connection, all eyes will be on this trip and on whether Rowley can make headway on an issue that has for too long dogged us.
What is essential going forward is a clear line of communication from the Office of the Prime Minister in relation to both endeavours. It must be clear what the goals are. And there must be accountability over what has been achieved.
Far too often in our foreign affairs, there has been the perception of a disconnect and a democratic deficit. As we go knocking on the doors of China and Australia, it is important for us as a nation to come to terms with the fact of our reliance on global actors and not to be afraid to formulate and engage with policy positions regarding them.