Non-tariff barriers have constrained intra-regional trade but Guyana and the Twin Island Republic Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) are hoping to remove these barriers by standardising existing regulations, leaving no room for varying interpretations.
These non-tariff barriers include regulations that seek to protect countries from the introduction of foreign pests and diseases through imported products.
While Caribbean countries have long used these regulations as a tool to protect their agricultural systems, Trinidadian Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said that they can serve as “artificial barriers” to free trade.
“Goods arrive at individual ports and it is at that port that somebody makes a decision as to whether the goods will enter or not,” Dr Rowley said at a joint press conference with Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali on Thursday.
Essentially, he explained that individual customs officials can decide whether or not some agricultural products would pose a threat if allowed to enter the country. If products are deemed harmful, those customs officials would stop the imports.
“… a lot of that is happening in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM),” he said.
And it is these differences, Dr. Rowley said, impede regional production and invite supply from outside the region.
Resolving these challenges are crucial to ongoing efforts within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to reduce the hefty food import bill by increasing intra-regional production and trade. As such, Caribbean countries have renewed their focus on removing the trade barriers.
Guyana and T&T are among the countries pushing bilateral relationships to dismantle those barriers. President Ali believes that standardising the regulations are important.
“What we want to do is to have the interpretation done for them by the policymakers so no individual can try to interpret a statute outside the interpretation that is given.
“We will have to define a lot of those things so that the subjectivity in the system is removed,” President Ali said.
Aside from this initiative, the two countries have formalised a joint agricultural plan that will see the two countries collaborating in aquaculture, rice, corn, soya, coconuts, agro-processing, livestock production and shade house development.
This follows efforts that started in Guyana, earlier this year, when the two leaders inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for renewed and enhanced cooperation.
Under this new MoU, the two countries agreed 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.