COTED suspends tariffs on several items after request from Guyana

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Hugh Todd

 

 

Coming out of the recently held 55th session of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), the Common External Tariff (CET) on a number of items has been suspended at Guyana’s request.

According to an information note from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the 55th session of COTED addressed matters of internal and external trade in the Region, as well as the outcomes of the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which was held in June of this year.

Guyana has for some time been pushing for the removal of trade barriers, which have impacted the trading of various items. During the meeting, which saw Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd leading the local delegation, there was progress on that front.

“Guyana was granted approval on request, for the suspension of the Common External Tariff on several items which serve as part of the Government’s plan to support the local manufacturing sector,” the Ministry announced.

The 55th session was held under the chairmanship of Alva Baptiste, Minister of External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation, Saint Lucia. Guyana’s delegation to the COTED included Ambassador George Talbot, Guyana’s Ambassador to Caricom, and other officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The COTED is responsible for the promotion of trade and economic development within Caricom as well as overseeing the implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Within its own borders, Guyana has already been making efforts to lower the cost of construction. In July of this year, President Dr Irfaan Ali had announced sweeping new benefits for homeowners, with lowered interest rates for banking and construction materials in the pipeline after Building Expo 2022.

The expo returned this year after a hiatus, under the theme: “A New Frontier for Building a One Guyana” and was dubbed the blueprint of the future infrastructure. Building Expo is a creative hub where investors, homeowners and businesses can engage on creative and smart housing.

He had announced that after consultation, commercial banks had agreed that there will be no percentage requirement for loans under $6 million once persons qualify under the joint window system. Banks have also agreed that the interest rates will be reduced for housing loans under $9 million to now 3.8 per cent.

Additionally, for homes $6 million and lower, Government will support homeownership by giving every builder the steel and one sling of cement. Secondly, for every other category over $6 million until $25 million, two slings of cement will be provided.

Since assuming office, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has lifted the low-income mortgage ceiling from $8 million to $15 million. The New Building Scheme (NBS) ceiling was lifted from $12 million to $15 million. Value Added Tax has also been removed on construction items.

The President Ali-led Government has been at the forefront of an aggressive campaign to dismantle regional barriers to trade. Specific to agriculture, President Ali has said that in the next four years and with the assistance of more diversified crops, Guyana would aim to reduce Caricom’s food import bill by 25 per cent.

Months after assuming office, President Ali had charged the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry to assess and address the hurdles related to exporting food and agricultural products to markets within the Region. As such, concerns about barriers to trade in some Caricom markets were raised with the COTED earlier this 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. It also found several technical and administrative regulations that were all hampering the export of Guyanese products.