Botswana has been warned to be ‘very nice’ and establish an exquisite and pragmatic foreign policy in the midst of the trade war between China and the United States of America.
Presidential candidates Ndaba Gaolathe of the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Biggie Butale of Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) highlighted this during the Presidential debate on Friday at Westwood International School.
The two were responding to a question asked by moderator, Donald Seberane, who had wanted to know the two’s presidential aspirants’ position on what Botswana can do to avoid finding itself in the messy side of the trade war.
Gaolathe said Botswana’s economy would be dealt a huge blow if America decides to stop buying Chinese products and services.
“First we must understand the implications of this trade war. Botswana like other developing countries, export raw materials to China being a high value producer and exporter.
When the trade war happens, it means America stops buying these Chinese products and services. This means China doesn’t export much and it won’t buy much from Botswana,” he said.
For Botswana to survive this, he said, she should build a competitive economy so that regardless of what goes on between the two superpowers, her products and services are still bought.
Secondly, he said the country has to diversify its produce and exports in order to diversify the risk. But above all, Gaolathe said there is need to establish intimate relations with other countries.
We have to be liked by everyone so that whatever happens, we are able to go to America and China and say ‘it’s tough back home’,” he said.
In his response, Butale said Botswana should maintain a pragmatic foreign policy and live amicably with its neighbours and other countries of the global village.
“Botswana has relatively been a weak country surrounded by stronger neighbours even before the colonial era. But we have always had to juggle between the superpowers and have survived and done well.
I think with this institutional memory, we will be able to navigate between our relationship with China on the one hand and with America on the other hand,” Butale said.
He continued to say the country should make allies with common values such as good governance and democracy, but not take sides.
In the recent past during Ian Khama’s presidency, Botswana was on many occasions criticised for breaking ranks with other countries when it made statements, which were viewed as a threat to the laid back foreign policy the country has been known for.