Guyana’s private sector came together on Wednesday for a virtual educational session on the 1998 CARICOM-Dominican Republic (DR) Free Trade Agreement to which Guyana became a party in 2004.
But a major concern for Guyanese authorities is that although the agreement is reciprocal between the DR and the participating countries, there remains a great imbalance in exports leaving Guyana for the Dominican Republic.
With the agreement offering great access to the market of the DR with over eight million consumers there, Foreign Secretary, Robert Persaud, urged Guyanese businesses to first understand the agreement and once that is done, they must tap into the provisions.
The urging came as the Private Sector, in collaboration with the government and the CARICOM Secretariat, hosted ‘Series 3’ of the ongoing Virtual Trade Seminar which started in November 2020 to help businesses understanding Guyana’s trade agreement with bi-lateral and multi-lateral partners.
With a focus on CARICOM-Dominican Republic Agreement, Persaud pointed out that although the provisions have been available to Guyanese exporters for well over a decade, the opportunities have not been fully explored. He said there is a lack in exports to the Dominican Republic and other countries with which Guyana have trade agreements with less than one per cent of exports going to the DR.
These exports are mainly coconuts, to which Persaud, said that much more needs to be done in this regard. Some 78 per cent of coconut exports from Guyana are to the DR.
The Foreign Secretary believes this will help to engender the turnaround that is needed to help Guyanese exporters tap into the potentially huge market in the DR.
Similar sentiments were expressed by the Chairman of the Trade and Investment Sub-Committee of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Ramesh Dookhoo.
“Many times business persons don’t pay attention to these agreements… I’m very enthused about the relationship with the Dominican Republic,” he said.
Dookhoo is also hopeful that through these sessions, the regional private sector bodies can break down many of the barriers to trade in the entire Caribbean. He underscored the need for technical leadership and support and urged businesses to also ensure that they adhere to the rules of the game and not break those rules.
The session on Wednesday saw several presentations, the first coming from Deputy Programme Manager of the CARICOM Secretariat, David Lord, who examined, among other things, the exiting difficulties with trade in the region and more specifically the DR and the specifics of duty-free trade.
Presentations also came from Foreign Service Officer, Cindy Sauers, who provided statistics on Guyana’s exports to the Dominican Republic.
Although not extensive, exports to the DR, includes coconuts, fish and wood. This she said, although can be improved, has seen enhancements in recent years.
She said there are opportunities for exports of a variety of fruits and vegetables and other value-added products.