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Pushing for US to do more in region

Tony Best

Pushing for US to do more in region

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As Barbados, Jamaica and their Caribbean neighbours grapple with serious financial woes, a United States (US) lawmaker is pressing Washington to do more to help struggling Caricom countries with trade and investment.
And Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat who is the daughter of Caribbean immigrant parents, thinks China’s growing financial presence in the Caribbean should ring bells in the ears of the Obama Administration, letting it know that other countries are willing to step in and help while the US is neglecting the island-nations and coasting states.
To get her point across, Clarke, now in her fourth term as a member of the House of Representatives, has taken the Caribbean’s case to US vice-president Joseph Biden.
“I have mentioned to both vice-president Biden, who has been given the portfolio of the Western Hemisphere, as well as to our special trade representative [Michael Froman] about the fact that these [Caribbean] areas have been neglected,” she told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY.
“These areas have been neglected. I believe there have been missed opportunities for trade and investment in the Caribbean and we have to come up with a plan to assist these nations outside of standard protocol. I used the fact that other countries in different parts of the world are seeing these island-nations as worthy investment areas” to insist on more US financial attention.
A country she has in mind that is boosting investments and boosting trade in the Caribbean is China. “We must look at how much China is investing in the Caribbean and it should certainly sound an alarm here in the United States, particularly given the region’s proximity to our country,” said the elected representative who was born and raised in New York by Jamaican parents.
“We are falling behind. I raised the issue that the Caribbean nations have a preference and an affinity for the United States but now feel like a spurned lover in a situation where they have to survive. That survival will be determined by the types of alliances they make, the types of trading partners they establish.”
The United States is the major trading partner of Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, Belize, Haiti Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda and others in the region but many of their officials have complained that Washington was preoccupied with the world’s trouble spots and other interests to pay any attention to their investment and trade needs.
Clarke said she may soon have an extended discussion with Biden and his aides on what needs to be done to boot trade and investment in the Caribbean, a region suffering from the fallout from the “great recession” which began in the US and spread to the rest of the world, sending economies across the Caribbean into a tailspin from which they haven’t recovered, despite the fact that the US economy was growing, unemployment falling and the stock market booming.
“My office is following up with his [Biden’s] office after our initial discussion so we can have a conversation about what he has observed and what he is prepared to do to be of assistance in terms of encouraging investment and trade in the Caribbean,” she said.
Like the other members of the House, Clarke is to face the electorate later this year but she doesn’t have a serious challenge for New York’s Ninth Congressional seat in Congress. But the economic plight of CARICOM isn’t the only thing on Clarke’s mind when it comes to the Caribbean. She has called on Obama to suspend his administration’s deportation policy which has resulted in thousands of West Indians being returned to their respective birthplaces since 2009.
Almost two million undocumented immigrants and criminal aliens from around the world have been deported to their respective birthplaces during the Obama years, the most by any Administration in US history.
It is estimated that at least 25 000 people mainly from the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago along with thousands more from Grenada, Barbados, Antigua, St Lucia, the Bahamas, Dominica and St Vincent have been sent home for overstaying their time; committing minor offences or staging serious criminal offences such as murder, rape, armed robberies and other felonies which made them deportable.
Clarke charged that deporting people for minor crimes was unnecessarily splitting up families, imposing financial hardships on people who often had done nothing more than commit a minor offence.
“The level of aggressiveness that was part of this whole deportation policy process” was tragic and it left families with few, if any alternatives,” she complained.
“The pressure was growing on the White House especially as hopes dwindled about having real and comprehensive immigration reform this year.”
That explains why Obama has ordered his Department of Homeland Security to carry out a thorough review of the deportation policy.  “It’s about time that something was done,” said the Congresswoman.