Foreign Secretary assures GCCI that removal of trade barriers a top priority


Guyana continues to work assiduously towards the removal of non-tariff barriers to the free movement of goods and services within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), according to Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud.

Persaud was at the time responding to concerns expressed by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) over the pending signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

The GCCI is of the view that Port of Spain should remove non-tariff barriers (NTB) on Guyanese goods before the government here signs any MoU.

“These NTBs prevent exports from Guyanese businesses and, by extension inhibit the growth of Guyanese enterprises. Accordingly, the Chamber of Commerce, as it did in 2018 with a previous MoU of a similar nature, strongly urges the Government to refrain from signing any MoU with Trinidad and Tobago until these non-tariff barriers are removed,” the GCCI noted in a statement on Wednesday.

However, the Foreign Secretary on Thursday, stated that President Dr Irfaan Ali had always prioritized the removal of these trade barriers and has, in fact, mandated a working group to lead the process.

“Hence, it is part of the agenda of priorities in the context of the CSME and is being addressed both in COTED and the CARICOM Ministerial Taskforce on Food Production and Food Security, and at the bilateral level with our partners in the Region,” Persaud said in a statement posted on social media.

He added, “As members of CARICOM, as we identify challenges and differences, it behooves us equally to find mechanisms to expeditiously resolve these issues.

“Our engagements with Trinidad and Tobago on the issue of non-tariff barriers and other matters have been frank and cordial, and with a view to achieving results in the interest of our respective populations and stakeholders on both sides.

“Guyana will continue to work assiduously in that spirit, using the best tools available, including cooperation pacts. We are confident that the will exists on both sides to move forward,” the Foreign Secretary contended.

In December last year, President Ali had rapped CARICOM member states for their lacklustre attempts to remove intra-regional trade barriers and warned that there will be consequences for countries that maintain these barriers.

Local businesses continue to lament the trade challenges that exist when they attempt to export goods. These include non-tariff barriers such as quotas, embargoes, sanctions and levies and affect some exports to CARICOM markets.

It is important to note that CARICOM is a regional bloc built on a model of promoting free movement of people and goods within the region. Many countries – not just Guyana – have criticised CARICOM for not yet achieving this.

In fact, as it relates to the export of goods within the Caribbean, Guyana, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica and Barbados have expressed concerns more recently. Guyana, which has been touted as a potential ‘breadbasket’ of the Caribbean, has been quite vocal.

To counter this challenge, countries have been engaging bilaterally. The recent commitment made by Guyana and Barbados to remove all trade barriers between them is a recent example. Still, Dr. Ali had said that more needs to be done.

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