Govt taking robust approach to resolve trade barrier issues within region – Foreign Secretary

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Robert Persaud

The PPP/C Government has undertaken a proactive approach to addressing the decades-long issue of trade barriers affecting Guyanese exports in some Caribbean countries.

Following a mandate by President Dr. Irfaan Ali, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation established an inter-ministerial working group to find solutions to the issue.

Since it started working in December, the group completed two reports, the first of which was submitted to Dr. Ali. The working group, in that report, identified the countries and the trade issues surrounding the barriers.

Trinidad and Tobago has been flagged as the country that presents the most challenges. The twin-island republic, during a meeting with Guyana on January 8, committed to addressing the matter and provide some feedback. Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados are among the other countries identified.

Foreign Secretary, Mr. Robert Persaud said the issue of accessing markets within the Region, particularly in the agriculture, manufacturing and pharmaceutical sectors, has been going on for too long. He assured Guyanese that the matter would not be treated lightly.

“We are looking at a vast array of measures, including involving the CARICOM Secretariat on how it is we can rapidly alleviate this perennial, ongoing issue in terms of non-tariff barriers within the Region for now, as we want this to be addressed and addressed very urgently,” the Foreign Secretary said on Wednesday.

Central to the trade barrier issues are requests for permits, unclear guidelines, a strenuous application process, and lack of clarity on phytosanitary requirements.

In addition to bilateral talks, the Foreign Secretary said the Ministry would be utilising regional machineries, including CARICOM and the CARICOM Competition Commission, and would support companies wanting to take legal action for unfair treatment.

“In Guyana, we are not going to be taking this issue lightly of having access to market and non-tariff barriers. We believe in the spirit of the Caribbean Community. There should be some priority in promoting inter-regional trade.

“The food import bill for the Region stands at more than US$4 billion annually. Here is Guyana, we have been faced with restrictions on simple things like citrus, honey, livestock, by sister member states. But we will be very aggressive and also proactive in getting them or resolution as to how these matters will be treated and treated with some level of alacrity.”

Mr. Persaud said the private sector is most affected by the barriers and the Government would “enable, facilitate, and use diplomatic and trade mechanisms” to address this matter. [Extracted and Modified from DPI]