(Jamaica Gleaner) Opposition Spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Edmund Bartlett is urging the Government to address concerns by some Jamaicans that a heavy Chinese economic infusion into Jamaica could negatively affect the country’s sovereignty.
Bartlett described the prevailing suspicion of the Chinese as an age-old discussion on how international aid and investment influence the sovereignty of a nation, whether it tramples on democratic rights of its citizens or allows breathing space to an economically challenged state.
“Certainly, we have come a long way in dealing with similar issues of imperialism and colonialism, cultural penetration, as well as political domination,” Bartlett told The Sunday Gleaner.
With China poised to play a pivotal role in the establishment of the logistics hub and the Caymanas Economic Zone, after already driving major infrastructural development, concerns have been raised in the public domain as to whether Jamaica stands to lose much of its sovereignty even if it benefits economically.
According to Bartlett, potent political will is necessary to resist what is not good for the country and to embrace what is of benefit to the people.
“One of the things that we cannot and must not do is to sacrifice self-determination for straight economic good,” he asserted.
“I believe that with China’s position in the global landscape, it is unavoidable for any country that has the peculiar problems that confront Jamaica, which is in dire need of investment flows, to deal with that country,” said Bartlett.
“Not many countries that can are willing to do that sort of an investment arrangement that China is offering,” added Bartlett. “So I believe that Jamaica is going to have to chart its way [with China as partner].”
Bartlett expressed cautious optimism about Jamaica’s relationship with China, although he expressed some worry that not everything will work for Jamaica in a way that its Government and people desire.
“But I believe that the skills of diplomacy, which we have had over the years, should guide in terms of making those arrangements which will inure on a balance, strongly in our favour.”
The opposition spokesman on foreign affairs argued that an alliance with China is necessary in a world that is now at a different crossroads in its approaches to economic convergence.
He said it was essential that greater focus be given to the developmental value added of foreign affairs and foreign trade issues.
“Every decision-making component must carefully weigh the variables to determine not only the qualitative benefits or feel-good factors, but more especially, measurable quantitative social and economic development benefits in Jamaica.”
Added Bartlett: “To this end, Jamaica needs to be significantly more proactive in carefully targeted areas in the international organisations in which we are presented.”
Bartlett proffered that it is necessary to carefully examine all situations, in terms of Jamaica’s involvement in the international sphere. “This is where the notion of economic logic in the political equation comes in,” he said.
He stressed that every Jamaican should be given the opportunity to acquire a better appreciation of the country’s role in international affairs.
“The issues must not be seen as being foreign and unrelated to the life of the man in the street,” he argued.
“In this regard, there is a need for a better joining up of relations with regard to the areas linked to the economic chain, such as industry, investment, agriculture and finance, as well as social and national security, said Bartlett.
“People,” he opined, “understand better if you can relate to these key areas that will make it more meaningful to the average man, and that is the challenge that we will have to deal with.
“So when we ask the prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs to report on their visits overseas, it’s part of that process of enabling people to feel that the decisions that we are making in international fora are necessary.”