Guyana’s sugar to continue duty-free, quota-free access to UK market

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Guyana will continue to enjoy the duty-free and quota-free access for its sugar to markets in the United Kingdom (UK), which has officially exited the European Union on December 31, 2020.

This was emphasised by Minister of International Trade of Great Britain, Ranil Jayawardena, during a virtual meeting with Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd on Wednesday. During the engagement, the two ministers held discussions on the Caribbean Forum-United Kingdom (CARIFORUM-UK) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the new UK policy for sugar.

Guyana signed the CARIFOURM-UK EPA and a Memorandum of Understanding provisionally applying the Agreement on March 22, 2019. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation thereafter took steps to ratify the Agreement by the December 31, 2020 deadline. A Ministerial Order was also issued from the Office of the Minister of Finance to modify the Customs Act so that internal adjustments could be made to Guyana’s tariff schedule to reflect the Agreement.

A statement from the Foreign Affairs Minister on Wednesday stated that the rollover Agreement allows for continuity in trade and preferential access previously provided under the CARIFORUM-EU EPA. As such, the Minister noted that Guyana will continue to enjoy duty-free quota-free access for sugar to the UK market, and other provisions related to goods and services’ liberalisation, investment, and development cooperation will continue to apply.

“I am happy that we were able to achieve this seamless transition following Brexit,” Minister Todd said, according to the missive.

Moreover, he conveyed his confidence in the strengthening of trade relations between Guyana and the UK.

Minister Todd highlighted the importance of the local sugar industry, and noted that internal adjustments are being made to increase the efficiency of the sector.

“Sugar is vital in terms of our agricultural sector, and with the oil revenues, we plan to ensure that we can diversify and improve cost reduction and efficiency,” the Foreign Affairs Minister noted.

Effective January 1, 2021, the UK implemented a new policy on sugar. The UK Global Tariff (UKGT) replaces the EU’s Common External Tariff (CET). This new policy sets an autonomous tariff-rate quota (ATQ) of 260,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar entering the UK market at a 0 percent rate of duty, with an out of quota rate of £28 per 100kg of raw sugar for 12 months, effective January 1, 2021.

According to Minister Jayawardena, “the ATQ essentially seeks to advance all British producers, processors, and consumers, whilst also maintaining preferential trade with certain countries and supporting costs.”

Minister Jayawardena indicated that quota volumes will be reviewed at the end of each year, and amendments made to the policy accordingly.

Further, the British Minister emphasised that the policy is meant to support the long-term survival of the UK sugar refinery industry, which will be in the mutual interest of both UK consumers and suppliers of raw cane sugar.

Meanwhile, during the meeting, the Ministers also committed to addressing hindrances to trade, and pledged to advance investment opportunities for the benefit of the private sector of both countries.

Moving forward, technical teams from Guyana and the UK will meet to explore areas of mutual interest and possible collaboration in terms of trade.

The Foreign Minister was accompanied by Director of the Foreign Trade Department, Dr. Diana DaSilva-Glasgow, while Minister Jayawardena was joined by Deputy Head of the British High Commission, Mr. Ray Davidson; Temporary Head of the Caribbean Team, US, Canada and Caribbean Department (USCCAD), Americas Directorate, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, His Excellency Greg Quinn; and Policy Advisor, Mr. Leon Wilson.

The UK is Guyana’s largest trading partner in Europe, and is the sixth largest trading partner overall. It accounts for 2.1% of imports, 8.8% of all exports, and is an important market for exports of sugar, rice and rum.

At the regional level, the UK is the largest trading partner for CARIFORUM. It absorbs 25% of exports from the region.