Guyana and the Twin Island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for renewed and enhanced cooperation that will see heavy political involvement to address among other things the removal of non-tariff barriers and impediments to trade.
Within the next three months, a high-level Bilateral Commission will be established to oversee the implementation of the targets of the MoU and President Dr. Irfaan Ali has assured that he and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley will have dynamic involvement in the work of the Commission.
The MoU was signed at State House in the presence of the two leaders by Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd and T&T’s Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Dr. Amery Browne.
Already, the two countries have concluded the Framework Agreement on the Deepening of Bilateral Cooperation; a Trade Protocol on Fresh Agricultural Produce and Forest Products; a Memorandum of Understanding concerning Cooperation in the area of Food Security; and a Memorandum of Understanding on the Energy Sector Cooperation.
But under this new MoU, the two countries agree to work with each other in the areas of trade and investment, agriculture and food security, security, energy, infrastructure, sport, tourism and other areas as may be determined.
In addition to the political involvement that Dr. Ali has promised, the MoU makes provision for representatives not only from the public sector but also from the private sector from both countries to sit on the Commission.
“We want the private sector to be fully on board – investors in both countries to be fully on board,” Dr. Ali said.
Dr. Ali further explained that the MoU allows for Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago “to take the bull by the horn and identify in an open and frank way the many missed opportunity, opportunities for the future and blocks to those opportunities.”
“We are not unaware of the impediments, the constraints and the challenges, we are not naïve,” the President added during a joint press conference that followed the signing.
Dr. Ali said what has been accomplished by the signing of this MoU would have conventionally taken years of emails and exchanges by letters.
“We have a long and glorious history of working relations between Guyana and Trinidad and what we have done today is to set the agenda that we don’t want it any other way but a way in which we will work together to realise the aspiration of the people of our countries,” Dr. Ali added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rowley who spoke after the Guyanese Head of State, said he wished to associate himself with every phrase utter by Dr. Ali.
“We are limited only by our own vision and our own commitment to do what has to be done. Once we commit to doing what has to be done to improve our circumstances then nothing will prevent us from achieving success,” Dr. Rowley reasoned saying that there was no place for timidness or maliciousness.
“As Prime Minister for Trinidad and Tobago, speaking with your President, we have said that we will not change our circumstances for the better unless we are prepared to challenge the status quo. It is the status quo that has us where we are. The current business models and the way we are doing it has given us the result of concerns,” Dr. Rowley told the press conference.
The Trinidadian PM spoke directly to the issue of restrictions placed on the importation of honey from Guyana which he said was discussed in his engagements with Dr. Ali.
He said the discussions will need to be extended further but said he does not intend to let artificial phytosanitary barriers prevent the two countries from expanding their trade relations.
“… but we are not going to be reckless. We are not going to be cavalier because there is the requirement to have controls to protect all of us but we are not going to use artificial barriers going forward and once we lift those barriers, we want to ensure that there is sound scientific basis for doing it,” Dr. Rowley explained.
He said there will be some pushback because for those who the system works for now will not be comfortable with the proposed change.
According to the leaders, a list of goods that have faced difficulty in trade between Guyana and T&T has already been drawn up but Dr. Ali said that a comprehensive document also extends to the entire region.
The interventions will address phytosanitary barriers, and bureaucracy working as impediments.
In an appeal to the citizens of both countries, Dr. Ali urged a change in attitude and mindset even as Dr. Rowley warned against personal agendas.