The terrorist attacks of 2001 produced several marked alterations in the global foreign policy of the world’s remaining superpower. The United States narrowed its definition of national security to focus predominantly on anti-terrorism, assessing most other policy priorities in terms of their perceived contribution to that overriding goal. The United States has also shown a new willingness to take the initiative in world affairs, sometimes leading to a unilateralism that irks some other nations. The application of these worldwide policies in sub-regions relatively divorced from major terrorist incidents such as the Caribbean can be unbending and severe.
As a matter of fact, the impact of 9/11 on the Caribbean has been diverse in many ways. In effect, one multi-faceted and crucial event exerted a complex impact upon a social, economic and political process that has become deeply interwoven into the score of nations surrounding the Caribbean basin. The attacks on 9/11 has reshaped U.S. policy towards the region in a number of areas, from trade to migration, travel restrictions, tourism, financial aid, military assistance, drug interdiction and foreign policy in terms of intervention in areas of volatility.
While the focus of this paper is on the effects of 9/11 on the formulation of U.S. policy towards the Caribbean and the resulting consequence, we must take a look at the reshaping of U.S. policy globally, namely that:
o Anti terrorism has replaced anti communism as the 21st century’s all-purpose rationale for providing U.S. military aid, weapons and training to foreign militaries;
o U.S. security assistance is on the rise since 9/11, flowing to an ever widening pool of states; and
o Several key restrictions on arms sales and military aid have been waived or dismissed to make way for the new anti terrorism aid.
Some experts in international relations have now contemplated that this new shift in foreign policy by the United States has led to the rise of key problems, particularly:
o Other geo-strategic policies that would have faced harsh criticism in the pre- 9/11 world – such as counter insurgency aid or protecting U.S. access to oil sources are now being approved in the name of counter terrorism;
o Anti terrorism is triumphing all other foreign policy concerns, opening the way for new relations with repressive regimes; and
o U.S. aid, arms and training related to counter terrorism may destabilize tense regions.
In light of the convergence of U.S. foreign policy over the years from the Monroe to Truman Doctrines, the start of the Cold War, U.S. and the Third World, Reagan’s rearmament and the fall of Communism, an examination of this latest shift upon the states of the Caribbean is required in order to establish a framework by which these small satellite countries must now engage the world’s remaining established superpower.
In terms of trade, the Caribbean has suffered at the hands of stalled talks in of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Originally slated to achieve significant progress in 2005 and implementation by 2008, the FTAA would have been a major forum by which the Caribbean states could have gained access to hemispheric markets. Since 9/11, and given the dispute between Brazil and the United States over subsidies in agriculture among other issues, we have witnessed a proliferation of trade talks with the United States engaging more frequently in regional and bilateral discussions rather than at the multi-national level [F.T.A.A.].
At the Third Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean and the then Secretary of State of the United States Colin Powell, held on February 7 2002 in Nassau, Bahamas, the Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community [CARICOM] and the Dominican Republic, placed trade and investment issues firmly at the top of the agenda. They reminded the United States of the significant advantage it has been enjoying in its balance of trade with the Caribbean since the establishment of the Caribbean Basin Initiative in 1983. The events of 9/11 and their ripple effects on Caribbean economics also found their place on the agenda. . The impact on Caribbean tourism and travel industry and the diversion of scarce resources from development priorities to new security demands were of particular concern.
The United States, pursuant to Article IX: 3 of the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization on February 24 2005 requested an extension of the existing waiver of the provisions of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act of 1983 and the amendments covered under the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Expansion Act of 1990. This expansion is valid up to September 30, 2008. This was standard procedure and reflects to a certain degree, the United States’ ambivalence towards creating a more vigorous policy for the Caribbean post 9/11. This is a particularly prudent observation given the expectations of a more dynamic relationship between the two areas following the Caribbean/United States Summit – “Partnership for Prosperity and Security in the Caribbean” on May 10, 1997 in Bridgetown, Barbados.
As a matter of fact, the United States began placing more emphasis in terms of trade negotiations with Central American nations as signaled by the signing of the Central American Free Trade Agreement on May 28, 2004. Although U.S. exports to the Caribbean increased from $ 338.12 million in 2001 to $ 409.35 million in 2002, a 21.07% upward movement, it was not due to a change in U.S. policy towards the Caribbean, but to the inevitable advantages to the United States because of the imposition of structural adjustment and trade liberalization policies by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Despite the current U.S. administration’s attention elsewhere, they have managed to maintain the contribution of a healthy level of development aid to the region. In FY 2005, development aid to the Caribbean from the United States was $ 370 million.
With respect to travel and tourism in the Caribbean, the events of 9/11 had a near devastating effect on this industry. While the stakeholders, particularly the airlines and hotels have shown some resilience in responding to the fallout from these attacks, the new travel restrictions on American citizens threaten to temper the expected growth of this, a very capricious industry. The U.S. Administration made it mandatory on January 8, 2007 for all Americans traveling to the Caribbean to do so with the use of a passport. Many analysts, given the fact that only a quarter of Americans possess a passport, predict that this will have an adverse effect on travel to the region. The Bush administration’s introduction of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, fully implemented by June 1, 2009, will have a profound effect on how travel is conducted by Americans within the Caribbean reason being many of whom were accustomed to traveling with a birth certificate or driver’s license.
The administration argues that the adjustments will be minimal and that the transition will be smoother than anticipated. We must take cognizance that tourism plays a vital role in the economy of the Caribbean. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimated that tourism in 2005 accounted for 4.5% or U.S. $ 8.7 billion of the regional GDP and that this figure is estimated to grow to approximately 5.2% or U.S. $ 18.4 billion by 2014. Clearly, a shift in American policy will and must have a profound impact based upon the sizeable amount of visitors to the region by Americans. It should be noted here that since 9/11, although tourism in the Caribbean has been growing, the rate of growth has been on the decline, i.e. 7.1% in 2003, 6.9% in 2004 and 3.5% in 2005.
In terms of regional security, some experts have accused the United States of turning its back on the Caribbean since 9/11. In 2003, the majority of Caribbean states failed to support the Bush Administration’s call for war with Iraq. This, together with Washington’s concentration on the War on Terror has left the region without the full support of the various agencies of the U.S. government. Their focus has shifted primarily to Homeland Security and the War on Terror. This perceived lack of attention on the Caribbean has left many Heads of Government uneasy, especially with its own battle against crime, namely the drug trade.
The U.S. support for the war on drugs within the region has remained stagnant since 9/11. More emphasis is now being placed on security at ports of call, especially those close to the U.S. mainland like the Bahamas. As a matter of fact, the United States has mandated the Bahamian Government to install more modern equipment at its port in Freeport as an added security measure to check cargo before entering Miami in particular. Attention has also shifted to the transportation of energy based material into the United States as fears exist within intelligence circles that a next attack on the United States might come via this method.
For the years 2001 to 2003, United States military and economic assistance to Bahamas, Belize, the Eastern Caribbean, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago was estimated at U.S. $ 41.56 million. Allocation to the same countries for the period 2004 to 2006 was estimated at $ 36.59 million, a decrease of approximately U.S. $ 4.7 million. Add this to the fact that military assistance was temporarily withdrawn by the United States to Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago since these countries did not agree to shield U.S. soldiers from prosecution under the International Criminal Court and one would be at ease to pontificate a somewhat less than enthusiastic approach on the part of the American government in dealing with security issues within the region. As a footnote, it should be noted that the vast majority of military assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean post 9/11 went to the Colombian anti-kidnapping programme.
Although the United States was the leading power in restoring President Jean Bertrand Aristide [Haiti] in 1994 and in 2001 and the fact that some experts contend that they had a hand in his removal in 2004, the United States since 9/11 has adopted a somewhat reduced role for itself in Haiti, with the Canadians and the French taking the lead in the establishment of a United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti [MINUSTAH] in June 2004. The U.S. has engaged in a policy of retreat in Haiti, namely because the state posses no terrorist threat to the United States and in the fact that it lacks sources of energy, particularly oil and natural gas. This is a far cry from U.S. policy prior 9/11 especially when one takes into account the invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the Bay of Pigs [Cuba] in 1961.
The aftermath of 9/11 has added some new tensions to U.S. political relations with major Caribbean states, while somewhat exacerbating existing strains. The longstanding overall pattern of the United States’ preponderant political influence in the region [with the exception of Cuba] has not been altered. Instead, the limited frictions that form part of that asymmetry in power have been augmented somewhat. Perhaps paradoxically, though Cuba is the United States’ major adversary, Havana has developed the region’s most institutionalized migration relations with the Washington. A series of formal agreements initiated in 1984 and modified most recently in 1995, have committed the U.S. to issue at least 20 000 immigrant visas per year to Cuba citizens and to return unauthorized migrants to Cuba who have been intercepted at sea.
Since 9/11, migration relations between Jamaica and the U.S. have been placed under stress by reductions in visa issuance and by Jamaican concerns that their nation’s chosen course in other realms of foreign policy may have proved costly in the field of migration. Despite assurances from the U.S. Ambassador in Jamaica shortly after 9/11 that “we do not anticipate less visas being offered, over the following twelve months, 37% fewer visitors’ visas were distributed though processing of immigrant visas increased slightly.
The issue of deporting Caribbean nations from the United States has gained momentum since 9/11. It has had a negative impact on receiving countries as it has been directly co-related to a sharp rise in crime throughout the region.
A tendency towards multilateral migration negotiations in the Caribbean has also lost momentum, largely due to U.S. coolness towards it. Beginning in the late 1990’s, when Caribbean states sought to offset or even reverse restricting U.S. measures adopted in 1996, states in the region sometimes acted together to lobby the United States more often than in previous years. The prospect of participating in the Mexico initiative  might have spurred this trend. What seems clear is that the U.S. has now little enthusiasm for multilateral diplomacy with the Caribbean.