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Living locally in a global village

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

by Dr Marlene Attzs Sooping Chow

Over the past few weeks, a number of noteworthy geopolitical and economic events have played out on the regional and international stages.  Sometimes it’s useful to be aware of, and to contemplate, the impact such goings-on may or may not have on our domestic circumstances.

First, our Barbados neighbours ushered in a new government on May 25.  Following a landslide victory at the polls, Bajans now have their first female Prime Minister, the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley.  The new Mottley-led Government immediately had to get down to the business of managing Barbados’ economic challenges.

What challenges you ask?  In the same month of the history-making elections, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that “… the Barbados economy is slowing down. Large fiscal deficits, high debt, and low reserves are posing challenges… reforms should focus on strengthening the business environment, facilitating economic diversification, and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery…”. Needless to say, the economic challenges of any member country in CARICOM should be of concern to us in Trinbago.

Second, on June 5 the world commemorated World Environment Day (WED).  Several countries used the opportunity of WED to showcase measures aimed at reducing the impact of their economic activities on the environment. I found the action taken by the Government of Chile worthy of sharing.

Chile is set to become the first country in the Americas to “…ban retail businesses from using plastic bags… large retailers and supermarkets [have] six months to comply. Small and medium-size businesses, including neighbourhood shops, will have two years to abide by the new rules. In the meantime, they may hand out up to two plastic bags per client…”.

One environmental group in Chile thinks this is a step in the right direction since “…It opens the door to move forward and discuss other related problems, like the use of plastic food packaging and recycling.”

Third and further afield, the recent meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) held in Canada, was tantamount to a soap opera being played out on the international stage. The G7 as they are called— made up of the leaders of Britain, the US, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan—are the seven largest and most economically advanced countries in the world; their economies in total represent almost 50 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP).

In late May, on the eve of the G7 summit, the US announced that Canada will no longer be exempt from steel and aluminium tariffs. Tariffs are taxes or duties to be paid on specified goods (which increase the cost of such goods).

The US action, imposed for “national security reasons”, means Canada will now have to pay these taxes, and costs will increase. The Canadians were not amused —especially since the US and Canada are supposedly partners under NAFTA (the North America Free Trade Agreement). The Canadians promptly announced a range of retaliatory tariffs against the US. Talk about lacooray!

Apart from the trade bacchanal, US President Trump also is campaigning for Russia to be reinstated into the G7. In case you missed it, this is an interesting move on at least two counts.

First, in 2014 Russia was unceremoniously suspended from the then G8, over actions deemed to be in violation of international law; in 2017, Russia decided to permanently withdraw from the group of influential economies. One from G8 leaves G7.

The other notable aspect of Mr Trump’s call for Russia to be welcomed back into the exclusive economic club is the question mark that still looms over Russia’s involvement in the last US Presidential election—the election that gave birth to President Trump.

The jury is yet to return a verdict on the role Russia might have played in Trump’s ascension to the Oval Office. But the best (or worst) is yet to come as we wait to see the outcome of the June 12 historic meeting between the Presidents of the US and North Korea—curiouser and curiouser!

It will be worth watching to see how these various strands unfold since it’s no secret the Caribbean has long-standing economic ties with the US, Canada and several other members of the G7. In fact, many of these countries continue to support the Caribbean on matters related to reducing climate change impacts on our economies.

My final thought is linked to the by-election bell that was rung for Belmont East and Barataria. Those elections will be held on Monday, July 16. In some parts of Canada, the law requires election signs “be removed within forty-eight (48) hours following the election date”. In England, outdoor posters must be removed “…within two weeks of the close of the poll…”.

I leave the campaigners with their ubiquitous signs, posters and banners, to ponder these thoughts. Just my point of view!