N Touch
Monday 27 May 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Nature and nurture of foreign policy

THE EDITOR: The foreign policy of TT on any major international issue is usually dynamic, flexible and certainly not static nor cast in stone, except on certain fundamental human rights issues. It is a template of many that sets out the parameters on how that country may act both in the domestic and international settings to promote its image, reputation and economic aspirations and objectives.

A foreign policy is consultative-based and indeed evolutionary. The Prime Minister and/or his Foreign Minister however may create instantaneous foreign policy by their pronouncements in major fora.

It is said that foreign policy is an extension of domestic policies. The latter are considered to be its sources or its incubators. For example, the current domestic financial constraints of TT caused it to oppose waivers of the contributions of member states of the OAS for fear that TT’s contributions may be consequently increased, even though it made enormous financial donations to the humanitarian effort in rebuilding Dominica post-Maria.

Geography makes a pivotal input into the foreign policy of a state. TT’s foreign policy towards Venezuela and Caricom emerge from adjacency, historical ties, economic dependence and potential trade in energy. TT’s Prime Minister, who is the chief architect of foreign policy determination as well as execution at times, supported Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro when the OAS tried to censure his Government because of gas expected in the pipeline.

The formulation of foreign policy is an inter-ministerial process presided over by the Minister/Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with overseas bilateral and multilateral missions. Such policies gain legitimacy and finality from inclusion in the annual address to the UN General Assembly by the Prime Minister or Minister of Foreign Affairs, which in fact is the main reliable source of major foreign policies. The UN has adopted a General Assembly resolution piloted by Guyana on non-interference in the foreign policies of countries by other member states.

Cabinet will hardly treat with foreign policy except when the US-run Hilton Hotel refused to accommodate the President of Cuba, Raul Castro, during a visit. Cabinet will have played a crucial role in TT’s policy towards South Africa in the apartheid era as well as changing and dismantling that policy when Nelson Mandela was elected president.

Day-to-day determination and the implementation of foreign policy such as the ill-fated OAS Dominica vote will not have been considered by Cabinet but the widespread negative fallout that the vote evoked locally will be a matter for Cabinet/PM that may lead to the dismissal of the line minister.

It is to be noted that although a JSC on Foreign Affairs had been appointed it is stillborn and virtually non-functional, keeping foreign policy matters outside of the reach of Parliament so far.

I give credit to the ordinary people for having adopted such a high-profile condemnatory response of TT’s conduct on a foreign policy matter at the OAS in Washington because it violated Caricom solidarity and was inconsistent with TT’s well-known humanitarian response to Dominica’s plight from Hurricane Maria that is in fact our foreign policy acted out on the ground.

STEPHEN KANGAL, Caroni

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