Key Government agencies are meeting in Georgetown to ensure the country is aligned with international arrangements for trade that the Minister of Foreign Affairs says can boost exports.
“…it provides an opportunity for discussion on a subject that is very important to Guyana, that is, strengthening our nation’s competitiveness, increasing exports, and growing our economy,” Carl Greenidge, Minister of Foreign Affairs said at the opening of a workshop on the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
“We (developing countries) are expected to be the biggest beneficiaries from implementing the TFA’s provisions because…the regulatory and logistical systems of developing countries are nascent.
“These countries are faced with some of the exceptional procedural obstacles at ports of entry and on internal trade,” Greenidge stated.
Greenidge acknowledged that according to World Bank 2019 ratings, Guyana’s ranking has become worse on the Ease of Doing Business index.
“Facilitating the flow of goods across borders is one of the areas of weakest performance in this index indicators,” he stated.
“Guyana is highly dependent on trade, trade that is external and internal trade combined amounted to approximately 104% of GDP in 2017, so we are a highly trade-dependent country.”
The National Workshop on the Trade Facilitation Agreement is a result of ongoing engagements between the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Government.
Bismark Sitorus, a representative from UNCTAD, said the intensive training workshop will enable Guyana to have a better business position in the international trading level as the rest of the world.
“The country must have a clear roadmap that would help it navigate through various trade facilitation reforms in order to get from the current situation to the desired competitiveness in trading with the world,” he stated.
Trade facilitation experts from UNCTAD are facilitating the training and were expected to share their expertise and experiences and to provide support to the national trade facilitation committee with respect to:
(1) developing a national facilitation roadmap;
(2) sharpening the skills necessary to effectively implement reforms under the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA); and
(3) sustaining the work of the national committee.
According to Greenidge, the completion of negotiations on the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which entered into force on 22 February 2017, following its ratification by two-thirds of the WTO membership, has been seen as a watershed moment for the world trading system.
“It was meant to contribute to the simplification, modernization and harmonization of export and import processes.
“In essence, it should ensure that global trade grows faster, is cheaper and more predictable,” he stated.
Greenidge said that trade facilitation reforms are important and they will allow Guyana to improve the efficiency of its systems and will bring numerous spill-over benefits which include:
– reducing transaction costs associated with importing and exporting goods
– boosting our export competitiveness
– helping to sustain our economic growth
– improving our attraction to foreign investors
– facilitating easier entry into foreign markets
– improving revenue collection
– contributing to job creation
– improving the business climate
– and facilitating more efficient and transparent delivery of public services
Among the beneficiaries of trade facilitation reforms, Greenidge said, are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), which pervade Guyana’s business landscape.
“In developing countries like Guyana, small enterprises play an important role in closing the development gap through their contribution to the reduction of poverty, women empowerment and income distribution,” he stated.
Greenidge pointed out that e-commerce represents an important avenue for MSMEs in order to increase their participation in global trade.
“Delays in trade facilitation reform, therefore, constitute a major setback for the integration of MSMEs into the world trading system because small businesses are faced with a number of challenges, such as limited capacity to deal with complex administrative and burdensome regulatory procedures which are associated with moving and selling goods across borders.”
Guyana, Greenidge said, has taken a number of steps to modernize its customs administration and promote trade facilitation.
This includes the establishment of a National Electronic Single Window, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, to the tune of US$6 million.
Further, he noted that the Guyana Revenue Authority has procured the ASYCUDA world programme to aid with the modernization of manifests, customs declarations, accounting procedures, transit, suspense procedures, amongst others.
“With this application, Guyana aims to take trade facilitation to a higher level by the standardization of procedures along with the implementation of international norms and best practices,” he stated.
Greenidge added that this will lead to a strengthening of Customs’ operations efficiency for control, improve transparency through full audit trails, and reform the customs clearing procedures, among other mechanisms.
The Government will also be provided with accurate and timely statistics on foreign trade and revenue.
Additionally, ASYCUDA will promote faster clearance time as well as lower transaction costs.
This world platform, Greenidge stated, is currently at its piloting stage, and a phased roll-out is expected during 2019. The cost associated with this project is being funded by the Government of Guyana.
The Government has also embarked on a project proposal for the development of a National Trade Portal and that is with the support of UNCTAD.
This initiative is intended to promote an improved business environment for traders by facilitating easy access to information on import and export procedures that have to be followed.
“I trust that we will all embrace the TFA as an opportunity to drive the reforms to make Guyana an even more prosperous place to do business,” Greenidge stated.