Trinidad and Tobago’s exclusion from US President Donald Trump’s meeting with the Caribbean leaders represents a diminished view of this country by the United States, according to former Foreign Affairs Minister Ralph Maraj.
“The distance between Port-of-Spain and Washington has grown,” Maraj said during a telephone interview on CNC3’s The Morning Brew yesterday.
The US President met with the leaders of Jamaica, St Lucia, Haiti, Dominican Republic and the Bahamas yesterday.
But Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in dismissing T&T’s non-invitation to the event at the post-Cabinet media briefing on Thursday, said all of these countries share the same objective of the Lima Group—regime change in Venezuela. As such, Rowley said T&T can stand tall and proud that it has stood by the United Nations Charter principle of non-intervention with regard to the situation in Venezuela.
But Maraj does not share the Prime Minister’s outlook.
“We do not stand tall, contrary to what Dr Rowley has stated, we stand diminished in the region, we have lost our leadership of Caricom which we had. Jamaica now is leading the way,” said Maraj, who felt the Government should have articulated a greater concern about the Venezuelan situation, particularly given the fact that the South American country is our geographical neighbour.
The former government minister also felt it was clear that US President Donald Trump had taken note of Trinidad and Tobago’s non-intervention stance in making his decision to exclude this country from the meeting.
“We’ve really abdicated the leadership in Caricom and we have obviously offended the United States, and while we have sovereign right to deal with our foreign relations we stand by the principles and so, we must also protect our relationships,” said Maraj, adding he felt the Prime Minister’s public statements on the matter also did not help the relationship with the US.
He said our relationship with the United States was already strained, given that we are no longer seen as an investment location for them.
“The United States does not need to invest in our petrochemical industry anymore. They have the most gas, natural gas in the world,” Maraj said.
"They don’t need our gas, they don’t need our oil. They are a net exporter now of both oil and gas. We have lost our economic clout.”
He said, however, that given the United States’ status as a major trade partner to our country, the Government should attempt to repair its rapport with the United States.