Mervyn Claxton’s latest essay (Opium as Trade Imperialism, http://1804caribvoices.org/articles/2013/10/opium-imperialism/) is is extremely revealing on a number of counts. Mervyn documents the humiliation imposed on China by the West through the Unequal Treaties of the 19th century, which forced China to open its markets to Western goods and permit the spread of opium addiction in China. The sequel to these squalid events was, ultimately, the downfall of the last Chinese Imperial Dynasty and the rise of Mao’s Chinese Communist Party and the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, known officially as the ” Liberation”. It is just one example of Western Imperialism’s sowing the wind and reaping the world wind, because the present Chinese leadership is very clear about their ultimate destiny being to regain the place they had as the world’s largest economy prior to 1800. The latest commentary by Xin Hua which heaps scorn on the irresponsibility of US management of its economic affairs while being the source of the world’s principal reserve currency, and the call for the ” De-Americanisation of the world”, is the latest manifestation of the Chinese determination to exercise a leading role in the management of the world’s affairs. Here is what is reported:
” Chinese News Agency: Instead of honoring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas, instigating regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies.
Time to start considering building a de-Americanized world.”
The Chinese have a very long memory and take a very long view of things.
A second point of interest from Mervyn’s essay relates to the use of international treaty law by the West as a means of institutionalising international relations of inequality and egregious injustice. This of course has a long history in the West’s relations with Africa since the onset of the Atlantic slave trade in the 1400s and its relations with the indigenous peoples of the Americas since the 1500s. This use of the law was also widely employed in the internal relations of the European settlers in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other white settler colonies. The use of Law for this purpose has a three-fold effect: (i) providing an elaborate cultural apparatus of norms, values etc. of what constitutes “civilised”, “‘acceptable” and “peaceful” behaviour for the contestation of existing relations of power (contestation is legitimate but must be ” lawful”, that is, within established parameters of property, etc.) (ii) establishing an elaborate system of procedures and mechanisms for the resolution of disputes and the contestation of power, and (iii) providing a justification for the use of state violence for repressive ends, asserted as means of ” enforcing the law”.
Mervyn starts his by pointing out that “the history of the East India Company presents a textbook case study of the North’s entrenched practice of establishing unequal trade agreements and commercial relationships with the South” . The example that immediately springs to mind, of course, is the Economic Partnership Agreement imposed on the Caribbean by the EU in 2008. It is no ordinary coincidence that a similar comparison to the made by Mervyn was made in relation to the Treaties imposed by the United States on Japan in the second half of the 19th century, by a colleague economist, of European extraction, who worked for many years as a research economist on trade at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. Here is what he wrote to me:
” The EPA negotiations have been extremely depressing for those of us who had, perhaps naively , believed that EPAs might actually lead to some development. I was given a book by Ed Vrkic on ” Breaking Open of Japan? about US commodore Perry mission to Japan in
1853 . President Filmore sent a letter with Perry asking for a treaty opening up Japan to trade. He sent Perry with 4 huge battleships to Tokyo (clearly the Americans postal service was even then very poor). The following year Perry came back for a reply with 10 gunships. (this was a quarter if the US navy – the Japanese clearly got the message!). He signed the Treaty of Kanagawa which ” opened Japan? to what they politely called ” commercial intercourse? in the 19th century. (The obvious comments about men with big guns looking for ” commercial intercourse? seems inappropriate !)
Four years later Commissioner Harris was dispatched by Washington and he signed what was called the „Treaty of Amity and Commerce? or the Harris Treaty. Below is summary of some provisions as described in the book by Feife (Breaking Open japan, page 321
„ They (Japan) relinquished the right to establish tariffs on incoming or outgoing goods, which the treaty set …. [ In other words no EXPORT TAXES (EPA)
2) „Another tenet carried over from Perry?s Kanagawa Treaty was a MFN clause that automatically gave the US any privilege Japan might grant. That feature of so – called „hitch – hiking imperialism? delivered further profit by sharing advantages secured by other countries – advantages that put a straightjacket on Edo?s(Tokyo) foreign policy by depriving it of the ability to manoeuvre among nations [EPA–MFN clause]
3 ) Placing many goods on a tariff free list and setting a maximum of 5% …it prevented Japan from protecting its infant industries…. To raise the capital required for continued industrialization the government turned to oppressive domestic taxes. [removal of infant industry].
All of this is painfully familiar to anyone who has been through the EPAs in the last six months.
The humiliation of Japan in this treaty by US and European powers is, in part, what fed the militaristic backlash in Japan and lead inexorably to WWII.”
Finally, a fourth count on which Mervyn’s essay is revealing is in tearing away the claims of the English to being paragons of justice and fair play of which the British ruling class is so proud and into which we colonials were so profoundly conditioned, which is still exercised as a major instrument of British “soft power” in international affairs. As a child growing up in colonial Jamaica, the statue to Queen Victoria in the centre of Kingston was imprinted on my consciousness and the one thing I remember is that it was Victoria who “freed the slaves”. Now I learn from Mervyn’s essay of Victoria’ s complicity and material benefit from turning a foreign nation into a community of drug addicts so that one of the largest companies in her realm could make millions from selling tea produced by exploiting thousands of poor defenceless workers in the largest British Colony. Of course, these facts were conveniently hidden in history taught in colonial schools, just as we were taught that Elizabeth I was one of England’s most brilliant and successful Monarchs, while her role in licensing and benefiting from the infamous English slave trade is either omitted or relegated to a footnote.
Thanks a lot to Mervyn for this and his other essays in teh serries on Culture and Development.
The Caribbean Court of Justice makes a landmark decision
The Caribbean Court of Justice has handed down a landmark decision in finding in favour of Ms Shanique Myrie in the case brought against Barbados for being denied entry, verbally and physically abused, and deported back to Jamaica, on March 14-15 2011.
In handing down its decision the CCJ has done more than give justice to the young woman, then 22, for the psychological trauma and stress caused by the incident. The Court declared that the decision of the Conference of the Heads of Government of CARICOM on the right of entry of Caricom nationals to Caricom member states for six months, is legally binding on Member states without the requirement that it be enacted into their domestic law. In this regard, the Court makes a crucial distinction between domestic law and Community law.
In this finding the Court has not only upheld the right of Caricom nationals to unimpeded, hassle-free travel throughout the Community provided for under the Revised Treaty. Allowed exceptions are where the national is “undesirable” or would become “a charge on public funds”, but the Court laid down strict criteria for the application of such exceptions and made it clear that such decisions are subject to the Court’s jurisdiction.
The Court has also clarified the legal status of decisions of the Conference of Heads of Government in such a way as to enhance the understanding of the legal force of such decisions on the governments of member states. In effect, it says that the decisions of Conference do have legal force, at least “at the level of Community law”.
The Court also found that the wording “agreed” in the Reports of Conference is that same as “decided”, and that the entry of a reservation by a member state to a decision does not violate the unanimity required for decisions.
In several important respects therefore, I read the decision by the CCJ as an important step in strengthening the legal basis for the operation of the Caribbean Community. It gives teeth to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and meaning to the decisions of Caricom organs; and hence can be the basis of addressing the “implementation deficit”.
Most importantly, it gives assurances to ordinary Caricom citizens that they can have meaningful recourse to a Court set up by and for Caricom nations, when their rights under the Revised Treaty are breached by arbitrary and insulting actions by functionaries of member states.
The decision will be undoubtedly be controversial, welcomed in some quarters and denounced in others. But in the opinion of this writer, it can and should be seen as shot in the arm for the integration movement.
Reference may be made to the Executive Summary paras. (7) to (15) and to the full text of the Court’s Decision.
October 4, 2013Click below for Myrie v Barbados MEDIA RELEASE Final 4 October Myrie v Barbados -Executive Summary 4 October 2013 CCJ DECISION MYRIE VS BARBADOS
I watched Bruce Paddington’s film last night. It is an excellent film; as far as it goes. After thinking about it all night, I wonder if it goes far enough.
Click HERE for Joint Declaration
Social and Solidarity Economy: real alternative to neoliberal development or just another intellectual fashion? A Note1 Comment »
In the Caribbean SSE is a tradition that goes at least as far back as to the mutual aid practices in free villages formed by newly emancipated persons after 1838; and similar practices of formerly indentured labourers…
Frank Moya Pons, the most widely read historian of the Dominican Republic, set out to write a book that reveals the structural similarities of Caribbean economies of diverse colonial affiliation and the continuities of their experience through historical time. For my review of this excellent book click here
I comment on a new book by Dr Terrence Farrell on the economic development experience of Trinidad and Tobago since Independence. Click here
Remember that great story you learnt at Sunday School, about the little guy with the slingshot who took down the big bully with a single stone to a part of his anatomy where it really hurts? Well, its happening right here in the Caribbean.
In the 21st century Caribbean version of the timeless Biblical story, the little guy is Antigua and Barbuda; the big bully is the United States; the slingshot is the World Trade Organisation and the stone is international trade law…
Sitting in my hotel room in Geneva Thursday night, I tried to access my personal website for a document I needed. Imagine my amazement when the following message popped up on my computer screen:
“ The web access is restricted. Please contact with administrator.(Political/Activist Groups)”
Continue reeadng at Girvan-Internet-restrictions-target-political-activism
The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce that Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, jeweller and sculptor, has been awarded the 2012 Aaron Matalon Award…
About 15 organizations representing a broad cross-section of Jamaican society, including NGOs, the government and the private sector participate din a forum marking the first anniversary of the 51% Coalition: Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment through Equity. This coalition’s primary thrust is to increase women’s participation in decision-making at the highest levels …
A release from the Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM) in Trinidad and Tobago late on December 5, 2012 indicates that agreement has been reached to conduct a full independent review of the proposed Debe to Mon Desir Highway with terms of reference that address their main demands; pending which no work will begin on the contentious highway. Accordingly, Dr Wayne Kublalsingh ended his hunger strike the same evening. On the face it this constitutes a significant victory, not only for him and the HRM, but more broadly for civil society in Trinidad and Tobago; with wider regional implications…
Today marks Day 19 since Trinidadian Wayne Kublalsingh, a 53 year old environmental activist and member of the Highway Re-route Movement in Trinidad and Tobago, went on hunger strike to demand an independent technical review of a portion of a planned highway that will connect San Fernando and Point Fortin in the southwestern part of the island…
Click here to sign the Petition of support for Dr Kublalsingh’s campaign
More Questions Than Answers Trevor SudamaA series of searching articles by a former minister of government poses disturbing questions about the contentious section of the highway.
Click here to sign the Petition of support for Dr Kublalsingh’s campaign
When the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia overthrew the public faces of the imperial-backed regimes in the region, it inspired supporters of popular democracy worldwide. However, as the Arab revolt spread from North Africa to the Gulf and deepened its demands, the Empire struck back…