Foreign policy is a matter of supreme importance to small countries – PM
The government continues to push its foreign policy initiative, as a strong foreign policy is critical to helping St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in every regard.
“When we came to office in 2001, we made it plain in our manifesto and I in speeches and in writings that foreign policy is a matter of supreme importance to small countries,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told a press briefing on Tuesday at Cabinet Room.
The PM who recently returned from a trip to India said it is conceived that foreign policy is a subject of concern only to large nation states but that is not the case.
“Our small states, it is even more important because we are so vulnerable to what takes place in our external environment, meaning external environment of our external political economy, issues of politics, issues of trade, we have seen what has happened to our preferences for bananas, we see the importance of the Caribbean Basin Initiative for certain kinds of exports,” said PM Gonsalves.
He said there is also a danger presented to the manufacturing sector here and in the region as a result of the North American free trade area between Mexico, the United States (US) and Canada.
“We have seen the importance of the economic partnership agreement between CARIFORUM and the European Union. We see the significance of our foreign policy in relation to Shenzhen visa waivers,” Dr. Gonsalves noted.
He revealed that when the Shenzhen visa waiver was announced he was contacted by entertainer Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle, who said it was very important to him as he does a lot of gigs in Europe.
“And not only him, but other entertainers, because this is an important area in which people can make a living, a good living too, while carrying our culture globally,” said the PM.
Gonsalves noted also that there is the issue of official developmental assistance which we have received from a host of countries, like Cuba and Venezuela.
“Can anybody tell me that the hundreds upon hundreds of students whom we have gotten scholarships for,that that mission doesn’t justify itself or the role of Cuba in helping us with the Cuban medical brigade here? People in construction, their work at the AIA, if one wants to conceptualize this matter in purely transactional terms which you cannot do, you have to go beyond mere transaction,” said Gonsalves.
He added also that our foreign policy has seen us receive benefits from Venezuela in relation to debt relief, Petro Caribe and the contribution of the ALBA Bank to SVG.
It was also noted that our relationship with Taiwan, and our United Nations (UN) mission in New York has allowed us to benefit in many ways, including giving us prestige which is difficult to put a price tag on, but which is very valuable,“Who don’t want to see the value of a thing called prestige? The sort of people who tend to know the price of everything and the value of nothing,” said PM Gonsalves who added that our foreign policy also makes us safer, while in this particular age of climate change, a subject of existential significance, we need partners to ensure our survival.
According to the PM however, a number of people take these things for granted.
“When people ask why we are spending so much on foreign policy and what is it bringing, I smile,” stated Gonsalves who added also that there is a lot of plain lies and fake news being spread.
“…and the simplistic notion is that Ralph is going hither thither…and sometimes you get a concession from all of them, ‘well all he can do is beg’, you hear that, and you know, it is painful to hear that kind of low level discussion,” said the Prime Minister.
He added, “…there are three sets of people broadly in this particular realm. Persons who have a better appreciation and disposition who will tend to discuss ideas, then there is another set who don’t quite have that level of sophistication and disposition, or those who are determined to create misunderstandings would wish to discuss events rather than ideas and policy.
“Then there is another set whose determination is not only to misunderstand, but to be vile and to be unworthy of speech. They focus on personalities and on an individual,” Gonsalves opined.
He said that this is our 40th year of independence, and our maturity as a nation demands that we lift our dialogue and the level of our discourse.
“I want everybody in this country to understand the strategic path that I have adopted,” Gonsalves noted.