We live in a multipolar world. The United States (US) is no longer the undisputed leader of the world. China is a direct challenge to US hegemony. Venezuela is also a threat to the old world order because she is influencing Latin America and the Caribbean. North Korea is a military Challenge to US dominance. Iran is a treat to US control of the Middle East. Russia is also a threat to the US military dominance. In the Caribbean and St Lucia the treat of Climate change and crime are another aspects of the world in flux. The countries that come out on top of this new world order will be resilient and assertive of their interest.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), or the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), is a trade agreement between Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States (until 23 January 2017), designed to hinder the influence of China. On June 1, 2017, United States President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation. This accord is designed to let vulnerable states to climate change, such as small island states of the Caribbean, a modicum of hope to mitigate the negative effects of climate change- a global problem. The US will pull out of UNESCO in 2018. UNESCO represents the soft power of the United Nations, where a world order is encouraged through culture and education rather than force. People usually choose leaders that they think will be beneficial to them. China recently unveiled the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road to allow countries to benefit from its endeavors and consequently become allies. For the Caribbean de-risking and other classification of the US have not been helpful. The offshore industry of the Caribbean has been decimated by US lead regulation. Offshore banking is very popular in the Caribbean. It is an attempt for Caribbean countries to generate income as most are not industrialized and manufacturing is challenging given their circumstance. The New York Times, states that the Cayman Islands has US$1.9 trillion on deposit in 281 banks, including 40 of the world’s top 50 banks. So, offshore banking is an integral part of Caribbean economy.
Fourteen nations in the wider Caribbean have been named by the US as “major money laundering” countries in the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR). This is bad for Caribbean economies. If there is not enough benefits from the US, global leadership countries will look elsewhere.
China’s President Xi Jinping visited Trinidad and Tobago in 2013 with US $3 billion in loans for Caribbean countries; the search of capital for cheaper source of labor. Human history from Roman times (we have data on standard of living) shows little improvement in standard of living but, from 1820 until present, due to productivity standard of living improved drastically. The world is moving to a more service driven economy. It is predicted that if a country does not join the productive sector in the next 20 years it will be impractical in the future. Natural resources in modern developed economy has proven inadequate. Natural resources appropriated by a small number of people does not benefit a country on a whole. The recent paradise paper shows the threat of financial exposure to external shock of a develop world controlled system. Bermuda and Cayman has been named as international money laundering countries, 28% of Bermuda GDP is from financial services so they are vulnerable to international financial system which they have no control over.
Mr. Trump visited Beijing and this demonstrates that US and China are inextricably linked, similarly to how the United Kingdom and the US were in the 1940’s. They have a struggle for dominance like Jamaica and Trinidad do in CARICOM but they have a Symbiotic relationship. The Venezuelan influence in the Americas cannot be underestimated. Look at how the OAS was paralyzed in sanctioning Venezuela all because of the influence of Petrocaribe- many Latin American and Caribbean countries have benefited from concessionary oil loans which has helped their cash flow in their domestic economy. No matter what the United States does Venezuela will survive because they are willing to fight to the end. They have a model in Hugo Chavez.
The Iran and North Korea factors are also helping Venezuela by demonstrating that the US is not an omnipotent and dissipating power, by spreading it too thin. In my view it is a way of resetting the international order when Lagarde, the head of the IMF states, “which might very well mean, that if we have this conversation in 10 years’ time we might not be sitting in Washington DC…We will do it in Beijing…That’s a possibility. And it’s actually called for in the articles of the IMF that the head office has to be in the largest economy in the institution.”
China now has the World’s largest economy using purchasing parity but the second largest in actual GDP. It is expected that in about 10 years china will have the world’s largest GDP. What does this mean for the world order? It means China will be the most powerful country in the world! Whomever got the gold makes the rule- is this true?
The recent hurricanes that decimated several Caribbean Countries means that they will have to rebuild. United States and Europe will not be able to assist them to the extent they desire- guaranteed. CARICOM countries will stand shoulder to shoulder with them because they know that eventually they will experience a similar fate because climate change increases that possibility geometrically.
Why am I bringing all these conundrums; because as Malcom X said the future belongs to who prepares for it today. If St Lucia prepares for a future of global change St Lucia will come out being a beneficiary of the new world order. But, if St Lucia acts subservient to the old order it will be adversely affected. The choice is clear, build or regress.
Brian Ellis Plummer
—Brian Plummer is an educator for 24 years and a Caribbean advocate.