Question: Which one theoretical perspective is most suited for understanding the Caribbean extra-regional relations with the United States and Europe? Support your answer with concrete example of United States and Europe’s relations with the Caribbean in specific contemporary issues of the region.
The Caribbean can be described as an archipelago of islands that stretches from the Yucatan and Florida peninsulas southeast to Venezuela, with the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Dom. Republic, Haiti, Jamaica) in the North and the Lesser Antilles to the South and East. Perceived as flamboyant, effervescent and engaging the Caribbean’s long exposure to the global community via their histories of colonialism, slavery, indenture ship and dependent capitalism have made them among the most culturally flexible people in the world. The ushering of the Independence era saw the Caribbean region’s openness to multiple channels of interaction across national boundaries (Keohane and Nye 2001), particularly with Europe and the United States. This neo-liberalist move has shown the Caribbean’s transition to self-governance shaped by multilateral approaches (Klax, 1998) that include economic, political, ecological, and social and security factors that resulted in efficiency and progress of the Caribbean region. As such this essay will seek to address the Caribbean, EU and US extra-regional relations with specific contemporary issues of the region with reference to neo-liberalist underpinnings of open markets, economic interdependence, collective security and globalization from all actors through cooperation and coordination.
The Caribbean has historically experienced a special and privileged relationship with the E.U. which represented a culmination of negotiations and coordination to establish economic interdependence between the two regions. The European partnership with its former colonies, translated into a system of open market access and trade concessions as well as aid from the European Development Fund (EDF). This heralded a unique relationship that sought to promote economic cooperation and absolute gains for the region. The ethos of European-Caribbean partnership was enshrined in The Lomé Conventions (I-III- 1974-84) and was based on the liberal assumption of economic welfare. Through equal partnership, joint administration, protocol, aid and trade and mutual obligation, Caribbean states had an optimistic outlook of being self-reliant economically developed and food security. In addition, two important mechanisms the STABEX and SYSMIN schemes provided compensatory finance to Caribbean states for adverse fluctuations in world prices of key agricultural and mineral exports.
For example, recognizing the crucial role that agriculture plays in developing countries the EU has granted extensive market access of agricultural imports from developing countries with the initiative ‘Everything but Arms’, which represents full duty free quota and free access to products from Caribbean countries. Under the 9th EDF around €522 million were earmarked for regional integration and trade-related assistance. (EU Commission 2012). This neoliberal initiative displays the trade liberalization of agricultural products and mutual interests through trade and bolstered the economic capabilities of Caribbean countries. In 1989, notwithstanding the financial protocol and the extended duration of ten years, the Lome IV agreement focused on human rights, democratic principles, and the rule of law. However the transformation of socio-economic and political changes on the international stage resulted in a rethinking of cooperation. In 2000, the Cotonou Partnership Agreement was signed based on a new vision of trade and partnership investment, the central approach being negotiation of economic partnership agreements (EPA).
Characterized by the emphasis of good governance and sustainable development, the CPA four main principles of participation, equality of partners, dialogue, mutual obligation and differentiation and regionalization allowed for progressive integration into the world economy. Designed with a much broader scope this new approach fostered stronger relations between the EU and the Caribbean. For example, in March 2012 the EU continues to cooperate with Caribbean states such as Trinidad and Tobago with a grant of 134.2 million in the area of economic diversification of the former sugar lands and an additional 210 million for development and environmental sustainability. Further the EU expressed a collective commitment to address drug supply chains, through bilateral and multilateral diplomatic dialogue with the Caribbean. (Trinidad Express, 2012). Jamaica has also benefited being the EU largest partner receiving some 710 million in funding for bilateral cooperation, further 25,000 Jamaican have benefited from improved sanitary facilities, provided under the EU-Funded Water Sanitation Project (EU Commission, 2012).This illustration has shown neo liberal assumptions of cooperation and collective dialogue.
During the Cold War era President Reagan offered The Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), which was a trade and aid policy that united the Caribbean and Central America into a single strategic area that would benefit from open markets to the U.S The aftermath of the Cold War, saw U.S. policy shift from emphasizing security concerns and the decline of the value of military force as a tool of statecraft (Nye and Keohane, 2001) to a new focus on strengthening relations through trade and investment. In 2000, President Bush transformed the CBI into an agreement- Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act which showed the willingness of the U.S to maintain strong ties with the Caribbean through free trade. Thus, under CBERA, imports of apparel from Caribbean countries that were assembled from U.S. components were eligible for reduced duties; the CBERA was further enhanced to the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) showing the US further heightened commitment to economic growth of the Caribbean Basin.
For example, through the HOPE, 2006 and HELP, 2010 Act (The Haitian Hemispheric Opportunities through Partnership Encouragement) Haiti is now eligible for new trade benefits for apparel imports Act This neo-liberalist approach of partnership, free trade and open markets boosted the manufacturing sectors of several Caribbean countries, and showed the complex interdependence of both regions. Moreover, the unwarranted attack of ‘9/11’ on the U.S. led the Bush Administration to describe the Caribbean as U.S. “third border,” “As such, President Bush announced at The Summit of the Americas (2009), the “Third Border Initiative” (TBI) which introduced as a package of programs formulated to enhance diplomatic, economic, health, education, and law enforcement cooperation and collaboration. According to the assumptions of neo-liberalist theory states are key actors in the international system but not the only actors, they are rational or instrumental actors always maximize absolute gains through cooperation.
An illustration can be shown where due to the Caribbean close proximity to the U.S. the U.S administration has provided funding to improve port security with the objective of more stringent maritime regulations embodied, 10 million has been allocated to the Caribbean Regional Security System Wing (RSS) to upgrade avionic and communication further new funding in the sum of 450 million has been provided for polygraph capabilities and interceptor boats for the OECS Caribbean. The TBI has also assisted Caribbean airports to modernize their safety and security regulations, strengthening immigration controls and border security. This initiative by the U.S displays collective security diplomacy and the linkage and cooperation between states.
Further Globalization has been a contributing variable to the growth, development and security in the Caribbean due to the “range of state-to-state relations” (Maingot 1994) and has created new emerging issues empowering non-state actors to assist. This neoliberal assumption allows for soft power policies of collective security to protect against threats to the U.S and the region, as territories are not immune to the transnational crime and the increase in diseases. An illustration can be shown where at the Summit of Americas 2012 the US pledged a further 130 million to the Caribbean to help fight against drug trafficking and crime. Further, to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS the U.S Congress approved the HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act (USAID, 08)
In conclusion, the Caribbean region should foster stronger relations of interconnectedness among all states for true economic integration and transnational interdependence to meet global challenges. Effective governments that posses the political will can make strategic decisions by formulating and implementing policies which can flexibly adapt to external and internal environmental pressures. The increase integration within the region is a sign of a new era of openness, innovation and ideas in pursuit of an even market system. It should be a collective thrust for true survival.