Written by Ken Richards,
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): US President Barack Obama’s arrival in Jamaica Wednesday to attend a Caribbean summit, is being described as an attempt to reassert US leadership in the region at a time when oil-producing Venezuela’s economic clout may be receding.
According to some analysts, a key reason why Washington is suddenly paying attention to the Caribbean Basin, has to do with its desire to wean the islands off dependence on cut-rate Venezuelan oil that Caracas has used to wield influence in the Caribbean.
President Obama was meeting with CARICOM heads of Government in Kingston Thursday, including the Federation’s Prime Minister, Dr Timothy Harris.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mark Brantley, who is part of the country’s delegation, says St. Kitts and Nevis wants to strengthen the existing relationship that it has with Washington.
“Of course the United States has been and continues to be a great friend to St. Kitts and Nevis and the region. It would be our hope to cement that friendship and to give succor to that relationship which of course has existed now…for a very long time,” he told WINN FM from Jamaica.
“The reality is, the Caribbean region is a border region to the United States, and I feel that it is important that the United States sees us as an ally, sees us as a friend and also sees us as an important border to the United States, and therefore we look forward to closely working with them on matters of mutual interest, and this meeting…at the very highest levels of the region, demonstrates that commitment.”
After meeting in Jamaica, the Caribbean representatives and President Obama will move on to Panama for the Summit of the America.
“[There] we will no doubt have other opportunities, not just with the US President, but with other regional leaders, and so we look forward, so-far-as St. Kitts and Nevis is concerned, to cementing the relationships that already exist and expanding on them,” Minister Brantley said.
“The themes here will be competitiveness, we will look at issues of security and issues such as energy, and of course especially with Nevis already obtaining assistance from the United States State Department for their geothermal project, we feel that there is already some tangible evidence within the Federation of that assistance. I also understand that Trade Winds…military exercise is likely to occur in the Federation this year as well. So the relationship is there, our effort now is to as I say, cement that and continue that very important dialogue with what is the greatest nation in the world.”
Minister Brantley has admitted that he would have loved to have a one-on-one discussion with President Obama.
“Well I think if I had that opportunity, which I won’t have, but if I had that opportunity I would wish to speak…to the needs of the region, and the need for neutrality. There is a feeling…borne out I think by some evidence that the US has traditionally adopted positions that are inimical to the Caribbean region. We think about bananas, we think about…the efforts of the OECD and the off-shore industry, financial services, we think about the war on drugs, we look at the guns coming into our nations and what we need to do about that, security. So the reality is there is quite a plethora of issues that we would discuss.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister said for him though, the most important issue is the question of recognizing the “relevance” of the region to the United States.
“Albeit we are a small region, we are an important border region. I keep emphasizing that because that of course is critical. My geography would suggest that America is bordered…by Mexico, by Canada and by the Caribbean, and we ought not because we are smaller get any less attention in terms of a serious approach to development and a serious approach to cooperation.”
Like St Kitts and Nevis, the majority of the other CARICOM states are said to be eager for a re-energized US partnership.