Guyana a “very important” market – TT Minister on trade barrier concerns

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

In the wake of recent concerns raised by both the Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago manufacturing sectors about trade barriers preventing the export of Guyanese goods into the twin island republic, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon has promised to look into the issue.

At a post-Cabinet press briefing in Trinidad, the twin island republic’s Trade and Industry Minister was asked about the issue. According her, the impediments to Guyana’s exports may be related to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS). This, however, would have to be clearly established.

“With regard to the barriers to trade and this happens from time to time, so if the issue was raised with regards to specific agricultural product and I think what was required now, I will take up that to and liaise with our Minister who has responsibility for agriculture, lands and fisheries, speak with our counterparts and establish clearly what is needed and move with speed to understand where the impediment is. It might be something that is absolutely correct, maybe for some kind of SPS measure,” Gopee-Scoon said.

She also spoke of how T&T was able to work with Jamaica in addressing trade barriers and making trade easier. Describing Guyana as a very important market for them, Gopee-Scoon noted that Guyana is Trinidad’s second largest market within the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and therefore finding similar ways to make trade easier is something they have to look at.

Earlier in the week, the Guyana Manufacturer and Services Association (GMSA) held their annual luncheon. Among the attendees were Trinidadian businessmen, who at another session revealed that they are also victims of these trade barriers, since they want to import certain Guyanese products but can’t.

Gopee-Scoon acknowledged that she was aware of the comments made by the businessmen. In fact, she said she is in contact with Dr Ramesh Ramdeen, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association.

“I read it actually, but I have been speaking with Dr Ramdeen, who is the head of the delegates that have gone to Guyana… 27 companies and 40 persons. And they’ve been having meetings together with the Guyana Manufacturers Association. And very successful business to business meetings, in addition to the extra goods which we want to have exported to Guyana.”

“I understand that Pepes Marketing and there may be one and two others, have in fact contracted to bring some Guyanese products into Trinidad and Tobago. And really, it has to be a win-win for both countries,” Gopee-Scoon further explained.

At the GMSA luncheon, longstanding Private Sector Commission (PSC) Executive Member, Ramesh Dookhoo in an address to the attendees, had urged the Trinidadian businesses present to help dismantle the trade barriers through their advocacy.

Dookhoo had noted that these various trade barriers in place by Trinidad, which serve to block Guyanese exports to that market, are not being adequately addressed by the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).

The removal of trade barriers will be integral to Guyana’s push, in consort with other Caricom countries, to reduce the region’s food importation bill by 25 per cent by the year 2025. Guyana currently holds lead responsibility for agriculture, agricultural diversification, and food security in Caricom and is spearheading the regional body’s quest to reduce its US$5 billion food import bill.

Months after assuming office, President Ali had charged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to assess and address the hurdles related to exporting food and agricultural products to markets within the region. As such, concerns of barriers to trade against exports to some Caricom markets were raised with COTED last year.

The Ministry subsequently formed a National Working Group on Barriers to Trade against Exports from Guyana. According to the assessment on market access by the working group, most of the challenges found were related to technical measures including sanitary and phytosanitary measures. They also found several technical and administrative regulations that were all hampering the export of Guyanese products.

Against this backdrop, Guyana had called on Caricom Member States at the COTED meeting to engage in bilateral discussions to iron out trade barriers with a view of expanding intra-regional trade. Similar views were shared by Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, Jamaica, and Barbados.

In fact, Guyana and Barbados have since moved forward to minimise the occurrences of these measures that frustrate intra-regional trade with the aim of reducing food importation bills, as part of the overall regional food security plan.