FORMER foreign affairs minister Winston Dookeran, in an interview with Newsday on Monday, recalled fondly his one-time meeting with US President-elect Joe Biden seven years ago.
He recalled meeting Biden when the vice-president to then US president Barack Obama made an official visit to Trinidad in 2013.
He said from that meeting which started at the Piarco International Airport on Biden’s arrival, to accompanying him to his hotel and at the official meeting where energy security of the region and small island diplomacy were on the agenda, he was impressed with Biden’s humility.
Dookeran said it was on Biden’s invitation the two posed for a photograph which he now cherishes more than before.
He said Biden’s visit was a great honour for Trinidad and Tobago which at the time was opening its doors “to high-level diplomacy with the super powers,” as it followed the visit by the current Chinese President Xi Jinping and preceded the visit of then Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe.
“I got the impression Biden was a person of great humility and secondly, he was a person who listened with attention to what I had to say. In my view, he appeared to be extremely genuine in trying to do what he could to build a relationship at that time between TT and the US.”
Dookeran said while those are important traits for the American president to possess, “I think in the world of politics he would face many, many conflicts that would require much more than humility and a listening ear.
“I think that would be good starting points but, at that level, you need some affirmative action and I don’t think that comes naturally to his personality.”
He said while President Donald Trump used a lot of “personality” in his diplomacy, he believes Biden’s approach may be more principled.
“I will be watching carefully to see whether his words would match his action.”
Dookeran, who also served as finance minister and Central Bank governor, welcomed the historic election of Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris who defeated the incumbent president, Donald Trump and vice-president Mike Pence in a tightly fought presidential election last week.
He congratulated both on their victory.
He said he anticipates greater dialogue not only between the Caribbean and the US, but globally as well, as the president-elect has indicated this would be his approach.
“I think from the point of view of international relations this would be a sort of reaffirmation of the principles of multilateralism from all nations, in particular the beneficiaries of a multilateral approach to world affairs.”
Dookeran also congratulated Harris on her historic appointment as the first woman and woman of colour, the daughter of immigrant parents, to be elected US vice-president.
Harris is the daughter of an Indian Tamil mother, the late Dr Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer researcher, and Afro-Jamaican father, a former economics professor, Dr Donald Harris.
“I think the VP has created a historic move that the world recognises. Her roots in the Caribbean will augur very well in building and fostering the kinship that remains between the Caribbean and the US over a time in which the global situation was in a state of turmoil.”
Asked about what he expects for the future of US foreign policy on Venezuela, Dookeran, the current secretary general of EUCLID University – an intergovernmental institution of higher learning – said he was not holding out much hope.
“I don’t expect there would be change with that approach, but I expect a change in tone,” Dookeran said.
The US, under Trump, recognised opposition politician Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela.
Dookeran said the hallmark of the Trump presidency has been a more unilateral approach to that situation, but he expects Biden would use more dialogue and a multilateral approach.
“It would not change in terms of interest or fundamental principles, but in terms of tone.”