September 17, 2019
In a “world of real politics” The Bahamas must take note of its position in the middle of an ongoing war between the two largest economies in the world, according to a former minister of foreign affairs.
Fred Mitchell, who served under the last Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration, said while the United States has to look out for its own interests, he’s not sure why there is a level of agitation over China’s involvement in the Bahamian economy.
His comments came after U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said in an opinion piece in The Miami Herald that the United States cannot allow China to exploit the recovery and rebuilding of The Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian for its own nefarious purposes and gain “a foothold just 50 miles from the coast of Florida”.
“The first principles are these, I think you’d have to demonstrate where is the evidence of some hegemonic design on The Bahamas, number one,” Mitchell told Guardian Business yesterday. “Number two is, where is the evidence that there is a security threat to the United States as a result of diplomatic relations with the Chinese?
“As far as the evidence is concerned, the loans that have been offered through various agencies out of the People’s Republic of China have been on commercial terms. And where there has been other forms of assistance or aide, I think the [national] stadium is always something that comes up, there have been no strings attached and there is no evidence that The Bahamas has been hogtied in any way to China as a result of those things.”
The United States and China have been locked in a bitter trade war for over a year now, with U.S. President Donald Trump accusing China of unfair trading practices and intellectual property theft and China under the perception that the U.S. is trying to curb its global economic rise.
The Bahamas and the United States have a long diplomatic history, with the U.S. having provided security aid and funding for decades.
The Chinese government has also in recent decades made significant donations to The Bahamas and facilitated significant injections into the Bahamian economy.
But Mitchell said The Bahamas is in no position to choose sides.
“We are a country that is in need of development money and provided that there are no strings attached and the evidence is that there isn’t, I don’t see that there’s any issue. I would also say, of course, the reality is that if the United States has an issue then certainly,” Mitchell said, stopping short of finishing his sentence.
“We are tied to the hip to the U.S. because of geography, by reason of the fact that they are our largest trading partner, but I think there’s sufficient space for us to operate in the world of reason. I often tell the story of Joe Biden meeting the prime ministers of the Caribbean down in Trinidad at one of the multilateral meetings, and the prime ministers were talking about needing development money. And Biden said, ‘Look if it’s money you’re looking for the United States has none to give you. If China is giving you cash, God bless you, take it.’ That’s what he said.
“The problem is that there’s a new regime in the United States and they see things differently. And this is a world of real politics and The Bahamas obviously has to take real note of that. But if you’re going just on the evidence itself, there isn’t any hegemonic design by China as a country for The Bahamas, nor is there any security threat to the United States as a result of the Chinese involvement in the Bahamian economy.”