Greene highlights disparity between US trade surplus and its aid to the Caribbean

Antigua and Barbuda’s Foreign Minister, E.P. Chet Greene, highlighted the disparity between the huge United States trade surplus with members of CARICOM and the amount of aid the US sends to the region in turn.

Greene’s observations were contained in remarks prepared ahead of a meeting Wednesday between CARICOM foreign ministers and the new US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken.

“The US has a beneficial relationship with CARICOM countries in crucial areas, among them trade, curbing drug trafficking, halting money laundering and organized crime, and as a peaceful nearby location posing no terrorist threat. 

“The US enjoys a perennial trade surplus with CARICOM. Last year, despite the pandemic, this trade surplus was $6.5 billion. Notwithstanding, ODA to CARICOM countries is less than one per cent of U.S. aid worldwide,” the foreign minister remarked. 

According to Greene, this situation has led to participation of other nations in CARICOM economies, with the provision of soft loans and grants for needed infrastructural development projects. “Most CARICOM countries are stable, representative democracies which are maintained because of economic development,” he emphasised.

Greene explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a debilitating impact on regional economies and that the Caribbean could welcome urgent US help. “We also need low-cost financing and grants from international financial institutions. Current rules that disqualify many Caribbean counties from access to concessionary funding must be widened to include our profound vulnerabilities. 

Additionally, debt has to be forgiven and repayments deferred on easier terms. In the parlous economic state of most CARICOM countries, repaying debt on existing terms is near impossible,” he further explained. 

Greene drew the Secretary of State’s attention to a recent UN declaration that the Caribbean will face “a lost decade” with economies and per capita income declining to 2010 levels. 

The foreign minister took issue with the US State Department’s International Narcotics Report which describes CARICOM states as “major money launders” has affected the capacity of our banks to transact business. 

“This State department report is not supported by the FATF or the OECD which conduct regular reviews. We would welcome your attention to this. If these economic conditions are not addressed soon, many CARICOM countries face a crumbling of their security systems which organised crime will exploit to the detriment of CARICOM countries and of the US,” he declared. 

Greene is of the view that such circumstances will inevitably lead to a surge of refugees. “The U.S. has enjoyed political stability on its third border, precisely because most CARICOM countries have vigorously pursued economic development. We urge a deepening and widening of our economic cooperation in our joint interest,” he concluded.

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