The following views are those of the author, former Minister Mariano Browne and may or not reflect the views and policies of TAJ 92.3FM
Title: The Chinese Visit.
The Chinese Visit:
My 7 lines of commentary yesterday indicated that on the face of it, the facts suggested that TT was snubbed by China. MP Stuart Young’s response at yesterday’s post Cabinet Briefing to my comments and those of Reginald Dumas prompted me to delve a bit further. I am aware of the meticulous protocol followed by the Chinese and none of the explanations given by Mr. Young made sense.
I did not intend to enter a controversy with Mr. Young. As a young Minister in his first serious managerial appointment, it is important to him to establish his reputation. He has many years ahead of him; if he makes a name for himself, he would have both a political future and a good law practice. There is life after politics.
His comments at the Post Cabinet Press briefing of November 16th were unfortunate and demonstrated his lack of experience and misunderstanding of how to handles a difficult situation.
I understand now that China’s Ambassador has been trying to put the best spin on a bad situation made worse by the unforced errors that lie somewhere between the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Ministry of legal affairs. Mr. Young connect them all.
By way of background, China is TT’s largest creditor. And our management of this debt has not been exemplary. Indeed, our records are in a mess. In addition, the previous administration did create a difficult situation by reneging on the aluminum smelter project after it had been built to our specifications. I was made aware of this in a private briefing in 2012 when the then Leader of the opposition spoke inappropriately about the relationship with China. This is compounded by disparaging remarks about Chinese contractors, many of which are state enterprises.
Fast forward to 2015. PM Rowley indicated early in his term of office that he would pay an official visit to China to deal with matters in the Spring of 2016. This visit, although agreed, was postponed at the request of the GORTT as it was ill prepared. The new date was Spring 2017. This visit also did not come off and was postponed at China’s request to Spring 2018.
It is normal that agenda topics and the text of outline communiques are agreed well in advance by the technical representatives of both countries and well-rehearsed. This is to avoid embarrassment and misinterpretation by the domestic public and by other countries who monitor these situations. The reasons why the visits were postponed is that we have not settled on an agenda or the issues on which we wish to agree with the Chinese representatives.
There was an invitation issued to PM Rowley to visit China in late October. This was neither a state visit as erroneously stated by Mr. Young, nor was it an official visit. That official visit is still set for Spring 2018. It was an invitation to visit “The Communist Party of China with World Political Parties High Level Meeting” as clearly set out in the China’s Ambassador’s Press release. In other words, this was a meeting of political party leaders of other countries and was never an Official Visit. This is the equivalent of “fam tour” where the host country would show case the considerable talents and achievements of China.
This visit was never intended to replace the Spring 2018 meeting. What happened was that someone attempted to lift the status of the invitation to that of an “official visit”. There could be many reasons for this. I will not enumerate them as they are too embarrassing to recount. Suffice it to say that the Chinese representative politely, but firmly replied indicating that an official visit was not possible given that President Xi had other commitments.
What is clear that the GORTT, erred. The Chinese have been graciously helping us to save face by not disclosing the full nature of the facts. In addition, PM Rowley is not empowered to represent CARICOM. The current Chair of CARICOM is the President of Guyana. PM Rowley’s turn does not come until 2020 or thereabouts. So “representing” CARICOM was never on the cards.
In short, the GORTT of TT put itself in a compromising and embarrassing situation by announcing an “official visit” when there was never an official visit. The Chinese were left with no choice but to politely refuse and try to put the best spin on in.
Perhaps Mr. Young may learn from this episode though I doubt it. He certainly ought not to disrespect or demean Mr. Reginald Dumas, his senior in years’ experience knowledge particularly in diplomacy.\, protocol and foreign affairs. Mr. Young may yet make a good attorney: right now, he is a poor witness and I sincerely hope that this does not affect his other utterances