‘Trumpism’ under the spotlight at UWI, MonaSunday, March 05, 2017
The policies of the new United States President Donald Trump have raised concerns across the world and in Jamaica, where the Government admitted recently that changes to US trade policy could disrupt economic growth
So recently, the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM) in collaboration with the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona, Department of Government and title sponsor Spur Tree Spices, hosted a public forum entitled ‘Trumpism and its implications for the Caribbean’ as part of its Public Advocacy Series.
The purpose of the forum was to examine the possible effects that the policy changes introduced, following the election of President Trump, would have on the Caribbean. The forum also provided a medium to explore methods which the region could employ to mitigate any negative effects.
The impact of Trump’s policies were discussed from four perspectives — academia, diplomacy, media, and the private sector.
The impact of Trump’s policies from the perspective of diplomacy was explored by Jamaica’s former ambassador to the People’s Republic of China and the United States, Ralph Thomas.
Ambassador Thomas, while discussing Trump’s impact on the regional, hemispheric, and global community, noted that the international political arena, which was previously governed by the ideals of liberalisation, is making a transition towards isolationism, nationalism, and anti-immigration sentiment.
Ambassador Thomas also stressed the importance of Jamaica managing its relationship with the USA, given the many areas of bilateral cooperation such as trade, security, tourism, and energy.
He also stated that "while uncertainty is high and there will likely be a downside on world trade and GDP", countries will be affected differently and there will be winners and losers.
Ambassador Thomas, however, encouraged measures to mitigate negative effects and emphasised the need to "develop a national game plan based on thorough analysis while continuing to finance tourism flows and reduce exposure".
Dr Christopher Charles, senior lecturer in political psychology at the UWI Department of Government, discussed the possible impacts of Trump’s policies on Caricom, immigration and climate change.
He recognised that ‘Trumpism’ could negatively affect the region with regards to the inflow of remittances, as well as problems arising from increased deportation.
He, however, encouraged people to remain hopeful, stating that, "Trumpism is real. The decisions made by President Trump and his Government will impact us. However, if we think of the global community in its truest sense, we will survive Trumpism."
Media and communications specialist Claude Robinson, in a presentation entitled ‘Implications for Journalism and Media Freedom: The leaks are real but the news is fake’, explored the implications of Trump’s policies on journalism and media freedom, particularly regarding the issue of fake news and the common use of ‘alternative facts’.
While emphasising the media’s responsibility to hold government accountable, Robinson stated that "for a democracy to work, the press has to be determined on what they cover".
He stated that the onus is on the media to critically assess democratic government, provide information and access to empower audiences, as well as to speak truth to power.
Robinson also highlighted the importance of honesty from those that govern, stating "it is fine for the president to be critical of the media or accuse them of bias, but there is a difference with bias and the Administration itself promoting any use of fake news and to accuse the press of perpetrating fake news when they report something critical".
The private sector perspective on the matter was presented by Larry Watson, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, and general manager of Confectionary and Snacks Jamaica Limited.
Watson’s presentation focused on both the effects of Trump’s policies on the region as well as the US president’s campaign methods. He recognised the rise of isolation and negative reactions to globalisation following both Brexit and the election of Trump.
He, however, urged Jamaicans to carefully observe the tools utilised by Trump in securing his victory at the polls. "Donald Trump took big data, analysed it correctly, and used it to win. He found the real concerns of some Americans and targeted them and repeated what they wanted to hear."
Watson also acknowledged the rise of populist politics that focuses on rhetoric rather than actions. In this regard, he advised "don’t get overwhelmed by the perceived bigotry and issues that we find emotional and heartbreaking.Look at actions, not words. I think that will be a good lesson for us to take out of what has transpired".