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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Last Sunday, President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Keith Rowley to have a discussion. The release from the Office of the Prime Minister was particularly opaque, while the Washington Post provided more details. What the local release did not say was that Prime Minister Rowley had been invited to Washington to visit President Trump. As to why that particular detail was omitted is not known, but it has certainly drawn a fair amount of attention.

There was also a story in the Guyana Guardian by Denis Adonis that suggested that a lobbyist may have arranged the call.

Whichever way it happened, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders revealed to the US media that the topics of terrorism and foreign fighters for Isis were discussed between the two last Sunday. University of Alberta Prof of International Relations, Andy Knight, had speculated with local media that that might have been the nature of the call and it turned out he was right.

Given the nature of the election campaign and the fact that Trump ran on the issue of eliminating what he called “radical Islamic terrorism”, there is no doubt that he will be very concerned about the rate of radicalisation of potential Isis fighters coming out of this country. That is so because for a small twin-island nation that rate far exceeds any other in this hemisphere.

Illegal immigrants might have been another topic that they may have spoken about, but that is an old topic as the Obama administration had a record number of deportations under its belt. However, those deportations are likely to increase during the Trump administration based on his crackdown on sanctuary cities in the USA that harbour illegal immigrants in protecting them from the federal authorities.

The withdrawal of federal funding from these cities may see a change in policy and that has already started with Miami recently throwing in the towel, while others like New York and Chicago are still seeking to uphold their sanctuary status.

This column is being written before the Fatca debate in the House of Representatives. One does not know whether the issue of Fatca came up. It was an issue about which the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, had asked Rowley to write Trump to determine his position on the matter. When it was clear that Rowley would not do so, she took it upon herself to write to then President-elect Trump to inquire about his likely intended approach to the subject seeing that the Republican Party election platform called for its repeal.

As someone whose vote on the issue together with her colleagues would have determined whether or not the measure would have been passed, there was clear relevance in her writing to seek guidance on the issue.

In addressing the UWI community at the Regional Headquarters in Jamaica last July 20, Rowley told the gathering “…God forbid that certain other people get their hands on authority in our hemisphere…” Whoever he may have been referring to back in July may or may not have been forbidden by God to get their hands on authority in our hemisphere. Hopefully he was not speaking about then candidate Donald Trump because that is who has their hands on authority in our hemisphere now. And that is who Rowley has to work with for the next four years as President of the United States.

The direction of the Trump administration will move America away from a model of global governance in a borderless environment to one of putting America first. This was made crystal clear in President Trump’s inauguration address. He also made clear that the United States does not want to dictate to other countries how they should live.

The Trump doctrine will see the United States paying more attention to its national and domestic agenda as part of rebuilding its borders, economy and security. How that will square with some of the key markers of American foreign policy in this hemisphere is yet to be seen. The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 that placed emphasis on the United States not tolerating the intervention of foreign powers in the hemisphere may yet be recalibrated to address the issue of Isis and its global reach into our hemisphere, with T&T being a flashpoint in that recalibration.

President Theodore Roosevelt spoke about Big Stick diplomacy in 1904 and so was born the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine in which the United States assigned to itself an international police power to justify its correction of what it saw as wrongdoing in the Hemisphere.

It is possible that a Trump administration may seek to play such a role, in a revised way, in this hemisphere if Isis is regarded as the main threat to United States interests in the region. Seeing that the Roosevelt Corollary emerged just after the Venezuelan Crisis of 1902-1903 and the European naval blockade of Venezuela, one wonders whether the prospect of another Venezuelan crisis may bring about a revival of that policy position of Theodore Roosevelt by President Trump in a revised format.


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