Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Dr. Wendy Theodore

Degree Award Date

Spring 2003


Jamaica, United States, Economic Relationship, diplomatic-trade relationship, 1980-2000


Economic History | Economics | International Economics | Political Economy


The purpose of this paper is to analyze this diplomatic-trade relationship between Jamaica and the U.S during the period 1980-2000. In so doing, I will argue that the US adopted a policy of neocolonialism towards Jamaica that contributed to Jamaica's economic problems and undermined the political leadership within the country during the period under study. Three objectives will be sought. The first objective is to provide an historical overview of the political, social, and economic situation in Jamaica prior to 1980: was Jamaica essentially ripe for US economic penetration? The military, dairy and garment sectors of the economy are especially important because they are components of the neocolonial relationship between Jamaica and the US, and therefore the second objective will be an examination of how the US came to influence and to a large degree control these sectors. These examples will demonstrate the extent of US penetration and disruption of the Jamaican economy. The third objective is to demonstrate that US actions towards Jamaica can best be characterized as neocolonialism. While US neocolonialism was not the sole cause of the eventual and systematic decline of the Jamaican political economy, it was a major contributing factor to the economic, social and political problems faced by Jamaica during 1980-2000.

To facilitate this discussion, the paper will be broken down into four main sections. Section one will provide the literature review, which will lay the foundation for the framework of this paper by discussing the key theoretical concepts of colonialism, imperialism and neocolonialism, and how scholars characterize relationships between strong and weak states. I will argue that neocolonialism is the best theory to characterize the relationship between Jamaica and the U.S. Section two 3 will provide both an historical overview of Jamaican politics and an investigation into U.S attempts to manipulate and control the Jamaican economy during the period of 1962-1980. I will suggest that as Jamaica moved from its colonial dependency on the. Britain, that the U.S attempted to form an imperial relationship with Jamaica that was eventually rejected by the Jamaican leadership. Section three will analyze this era of U.S. imperialism and also will include a specific examination of the dairy industry, and the garment industry, and the role the U.S. played in the problems of these two domestic sectors. Finally, the paper will conclude with an analysis of how the specific policies of the US adversely affected the Jamaican economy. I will argue that the combined economic decisions of the U.S and of those supported by such institutions as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO) towards Jamaica substantially contributed to the decline and economic stagnation that the country now faces.