Local Private Sector needs to be aggressive against non-tariff barriers in region – PSC Chair

Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Komal Singh

With Guyana’s manufacturing sector on the cusp of a massive transformation, outgoing chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Komal Singh, has called for the local business community to be aggressive against the non-tariff barriers that hinders the free movement of Guyanese goods within the Caribbean region.

His remarks come on the heels of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) recently blocking the importation of millions of dollars’ worth of dairy products from Guyana – something that sparked widespread outrage in the local business community.

At the PSC Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, Singh emphasised the need for the local private sector to play a role in ensuring that these non-tariff barriers are removed. This, he noted, will be especially important with the impending operationalisation of the Regional Ferry Service between Guyana and Trinidad, and later on to Barbados, that will open up trade opportunities within the Caribbean.

To this end, he noted that the PSC will continue to work with the Guyana Government and other regional stakeholders to remove all the non-tariff barriers that prevents Guyanese goods and services from entering other markets when the Guyanese market is open to almost any goods and services that comes here.

“We from the private sector need to be very aggressive going forward to make that whatever non-tariff barrier that exists that prohibits our goods from other markets, we need to go and analyse those and work aggressively to make sure we have them removed as quickly as possible. We do not want that non-tariff barrier to exist when our industries start growing rapidly from the manufacturing sector… Our private sector and other members will continue to review those non-traffic barriers and to look at means and ways, where we can remove and work with government and the other countries to have those removed as quickly as possible,” Singh posited.

For years, Guyanese companies have been complaining bitterly about the trade restrictions encountered with the Twin-island Republic, which is allowed to freely export its products to Guyana with ease.

In fact, President Dr Irfaan Ali, while delivering the feature address at the PSC’s AGM, argued that “There is one country in this region that has always allowed the full and free movement of capital, people and of goods and services. And that is Guyana… and we can put this to the test.”

“How many regional contractors operate in Guyana freely, and we welcome them. We welcome everyone but how many Guyanese contracting entity, that has built tremendous capacity, operate outside of Guyana?” Ali stressed.

He went on to highlight a complaint he recently received from a farmer during a visit to Bonasika, who is experiencing “tremendous difficulty” in getting his produce into regional markets. To this end, the Head of State instructed the Agriculture Ministry to use the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) as a vehicle to consolidate local production, go after markets and then be the bridge that allows the flow of Guyanese produce into all those markets.

Moreover, President Ali said as the current Chair of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Guyana has committed, before the next Heads of Government meeting, to collectively sign onto free movement within the region.

Under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) to which both Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana subscribe, requires free movement of goods and services.

However, only last week, it was reported that Trinidad had refused millions of dollars worth of milk and water products from Guyanese company Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL).
At a press conference, DDL Chairman Komal Samaroo revealed that four 20 ft shipping containers of packaged milk and bottled water were recently blocked by Trinidadian authorities from entry. Samaroo explained that the milk, worth $20 Million, was sent back, while the sale of the water was restricted.

Local private sector bodies were outraged over the situation, which the T&T Trade and Industry Ministry blamed on the absence of the requisite regulatory documentation. It added that there was no prohibition on the importation of animal products into Trinidad and Tobago from any Caricom Member State, including Guyana.

But the Guyana Government, through the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry, slammed Trinidad’s decision to refuse the Guyanese goods. While it acknowledged that regional products must satisfy sanitary and other rules, the Ministry noted that the dairy products were in full compliance with these regulations and were even accepted in other CARICOM Member States.

Meanwhile, weighing in on this situation, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo last week reiterated calls for the fair treatment of commodities from Guyana, warning of similar restrictions of exports coming here.

“We will insist upon full reciprocity in matters of trade …the way our goods and our exports are treated across the Region – but in this particular case in Trinidad and Tobago – the same way their goods entering the Guyanese market will be treated. [There will be] full reciprocity on all of the issues, because if they can insist on a phytosanitary test that we don’t implement on their goods, but that they want to conduct on our goods before they enter into their market, then we will have to deal in the same manner as they’re doing.”