349. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The U.K. and U.S. Roles in the Caribbean


  • British

    • Minister of State Ted Rowlands
    • Deputy Under Secretary (FCO) Hugh Cortazzi
  • United States

    • Under Secretary for Political Affairs Philip C. Habib
    • Theodore J.C. Heavner, Director of Office of Caribbean Affairs (ARA/CAR)
    • Frank Tumminia, ARA/CAR (Notetaker)
[Page 867]

Future Role of the U.K. in the Caribbean

Mr. Habib started by asking Rowlands whether the British were walking away from the Caribbean. He added that having left Suez now they appeared ready to leave the Antilles.

Rowlands replied by saying that this was not the case. The U.K. was not leaving the Caribbean; it wanted to complete the inevitable process toward independence and then rearrange its economic support for the area on a regional/multilateral rather than bilateral basis.

Economic Crises in Many Countries

Mr. Habib pointed out that in discussing the problems of the Caribbean it was necessary to differentiate between the dependent territories, the associated states, and the independent nations. In regard to the associated states, there should be some form of regional planning. Countries such as Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, and The Netherlands, in addition to the U.S. and the U.K., should play a joint role. In regard to independent states, we must focus our attention on Jamaica and then on Guyana. Jamaica was an economic wreck and the U.S. alone could not provide the $200 million that Manley needs to prop up his economy. What Jamaica wants and needs is budgetary and balance of payments support. Our team, which had had a very good exchange with the Jamaicans, has prepared a report (Mr. Habib offered to give a copy to the British) that indicates that the third quarter of 1977 will be a critical period.2 Jamaica will need money quickly in order to meet its obligations. Guyana also was asking for help to the tune of $100 million.

Consultative Group

Mr. Habib expressed his belief that the best way to approach the economic needs of the area is through a consultative group, along the lines of the one that assisted Indonesia in the past.3 While some form of bilateral assistance would undoubtedly continue, the trend and the focus should be on multilateral aid. Mr. Habib remarked in this respect that he felt that Trinidad’s Williams may be willing to assist Jamaica, if not Guyana, and that he would talk to him and other Caribbean [Page 868] leaders when he travelled through the area in mid-June.4 He suggested that the British talk to the Canadians along the same lines.

Role of Caribbean Financial Institutions

Mr. Habib criticized the role of the various Caribbean institutions, especially the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which seemed unable to cope with the financial needs of the area. Mr. Heavner remarked that the CDB worked along conservative lines and would support only those projects that were bankable and properly planned by the receiving states.

United States Limited Resources

Mr. Habib pointed out that we have very little to offer to the various Caribbean leaders. For example, he noted that he was visiting Barbados, which wants retroactive compensation for the use of the military facilities there, but that all he could tell the Barbadians was that if they could not accept our offer, we would close the facilities.5

Regional Assistance vs. Bilateral Assistance

Rowlands, referring to the Associated States, noted that they all want and will eventually get independence, even though their economic viability is minimal. Until now, because of constitutional limitations, the U.K. has been obliged to provide financial support individually to these States. Once they achieve independence, the U.K. will be able to switch to regional assistance. According to Rowlands, such an approach, even without raising the overall amount of assistance being provided now, will permit a more rational use of available resources and will have a greater impact in the area as a whole.

Timetable to Independence

Rowlands gave a capsule report on the status of the independence movement in the various Associated States. Leading the pack is Dominica. It should become independent within 8 months. St. Lucia wants to go but the opposition party is against it. St. Kitts’ Bradshaw is eager but he has to give up on Anguilla before any progress can be made. St. Vincent’s Cato wants to talk about independence but does not seem in any great hurry. Antigua’s Bird is not anxious but his son may put pressure on him to obtain independence within the near future. Referring to the upcoming visit to the U.S. by Dominica’s John and Antigua’s Bird, Rowlands told the Under Secretary “to stroke” John gently and make him feel wanted while promising nothing. With regard [Page 869] to Bird, Rowlands noted that Bird is “a good fellow” and we should treat him well in negotiating our military facilities in Antigua.

What to do with the Dependent States

Referring to the problem of the dependent territories, Rowlands pointed out that in the Foreign Office there was a split of opinion on what to do with them. One group held that they should be “recolonized”. Another felt that they should be “decolonized” short of independence. The problem with this second approach was that the U.K. would have to bear the responsibility for anything that went wrong in the islands while having no real power to control events. Rowlands made clear that the U.K. did not want to get involved in local fights (Anguilla was the classic case) as long as it could not exercise actual control over internal matters. Rowlands added that dependent territories such as Montserrat, Cayman Islands, and Turks and Caicos were “never never lands”. They were nothing but a burden to the U.K., but unfortunately they were not likely to disappear.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850157–0222. Confidential. Drafted by Tumminia on June 6. The meeting was held in Habib’s office.
  2. The talks were a follow-up to Vance’s March 3 meeting with Jamaican Foreign Minister Patterson; see Document 175. In telegram 109377 to Bridgetown, May 16, the Department transmitted a draft of the report. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770173–1025)
  3. Beginning in 1967, questions regarding foreign assistance to Indonesia were discussed by the multinational International-Governmental Group on Indonesia.
  4. After the OAS General Assembly session in Grenada, Habib visited Port of Spain, Georgetown, and Bridgetown from June 18 to June 22.
  5. See Document 302.