(CNSNews.com) – The American people are the source of foreign assistance provided by the U.S., Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday, adding that questions raised by President Trump about exactly what that aid is supporting have “not been examined in quite some time – if ever.”
“As we provide significant assistance to countries, are these countries that align with our values?” he said. “Are they countries that align with what we believe are ways to make the world a safer and more prosperous place?”
Tillerson was speaking in Kingston, Jamaica, where local reporters asked him about Trump’s stated desire to link foreign aid to countries’ support for U.S. interests.
The issue took on prominence last December, when the U.N. General Assembly adopted a controversial resolution declaring Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void.”
Before the vote in New York, Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley both warned before that vote that countries’ positions could place U.S. foreign aid at risk.
The resolution still passed by an overwhelming margin – 128 votes to nine – although 35 countries did abstain and another 21 countries stayed away from the closely-watched vote.
In his State of the Union address last week, Trump returned to the subject, citing the U.N. Jerusalem vote and calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure that U.S. foreign aid dollars “only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.”
The issue evidently resonated in Jamaica: Jamaican reporters were given just two questions during Wednesday’s short press availability and both related to the issue.
One questioner asked Tillerson whether Haley’s warning that countries not supporting the U.S. in the vote could lose U.S. aid was now U.S. policy.
In reply, Tillerson recalled that Trump had addressed the matter during his State of the Union, “when he said we need to undertake a re-examination of how the United States provides aid around the world globally.”
“And not just for this particular issue,” he continued, “but more broadly in terms of – as we provide significant assistance to countries, are these countries that align with our values?”
“Are they countries that align with what we believe are ways to make the world a safer and more prosperous place?”
Tillerson added that “it’s not been examined in quite some time – if ever – in terms of how does the United States want to think about the generosity of the American people, because this is the American people’s money that’s being provided to others, and what should the expectation be around – what are we supporting?”
Tillerson said the U.S. has not yet adopted a new policy, but that Trump has “asked us to think about all of our elements of our aid programs, and are they really advancing and promoting the values that the American people want to see advanced.”
CNSNews.com has reported previously that some of the countries which receive the most assistance from the U.S. each year more often than not tend to vote against the positions taken by the U.S. in votes at the U.N. General Assembly.
‘Principle, not aid’
The Jamaican reporter also asked Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, standing alongside Tillerson, about his government’s decision to abstain rather than vote in favor of the Jerusalem resolution.
Holness noted that several Caribbean nations had abstained, and said Jamaica had done so because “from a diplomatic perspective, Jamaica did not need to take a position on another country’s position on where they would want to see as a capital in the world.”
“So from our perspective, this was not an issue that Jamaica should take a position on.”
But, he stressed, “Jamaica conducts its foreign policy on principle. We are not conducting foreign policy for aid or for special benefits.”
In the Dec. 21 vote, four countries in the Caribbean (Barbados, Dominica, Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) voted in favor of the resolution condemning Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. Five others (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica) abstained, and two (Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia) were absent.
The nine countries which voted against the resolution were the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo.
The 35 abstainers were: Antigua And Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia And Herzegovina, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Haiti, Hungary, Jamaica, Kiribati, Latvia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Trinidad And Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda and Vanuatu.
The 21 absent countries were: Burma, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic Of The Congo, El Salvador, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Moldova, Mongolia, Saint Kitts And Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome And Principe, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Zambia.