Guyanese never disregarded the law
Says AG on CCJ cement ruling
Attorney General Charles Ramson has said that the Guyana Government never disregarded the law by failing to adhere to a ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to re-impose the Common External Tariff (CET) on the importation of cement.
On August 20, last, the CCJ ruled in favour of Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL), which complained that Guyana was unfairly waiving the CET so that other companies could import cement from outside of the region when it could satisfy local demands. Guyana had 28 days to comply. However, it failed to do so, and on September 22, Ramson had applied to the Court for a stay of execution on the order.
However, TCL has asked the CCJ to hold the Guyana Government in contempt for failing to carry out the court’s ruling.
Yesterday, through the Government Information Agency (GINA), Ramson said the Guyana Government had willingly admitted before the court that it was in breach of the rule requiring the imposition of the tariff on cement, noting that there was extenuating circumstances as regional cement supplies, including the plaintiff, could not meet the needs of Guyana’s booming construction industry.
He stressed that it has been estimated that the country, over the coming year, requires 432,000 metric tonnes of cement, or 36,000 metric tonnes per month, to meet its demand.
This demand, the AG explained, cannot be easily met by the regional producers. To highlight this point, he noted that the entire cement industry in Barbados could only supply 18,000 metric tonnes of cement per month, which is only 50% of Guyana’s demand.
Ramson insisted that Government has always tried to remain within the confines of the law and had filed on June 30, before the court’s earlier ruling, an application with the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), the body that rules on intra-regional trade matters, seeking a waiver of the CET on imports of cement from non-CARICOM countries.
However, he noted that Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, which have cement-producing companies, have objected to the granting of the waiver.
He further stated that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and International Co-operation, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, will be attending a COTED meeting in Barbados today where this matter will be on the agenda.
The AG also indicated that Guyana had filed an application with the CCJ seeking an extension until December 31 of this year to follow the ruling of the court and a video conference on that application is expected to be held on October 14.
He repeated that Guyana is only seeking to satisfy the cement needs of its booming construction industry, and is in no way trying to undermine the public’s confidence in the court, as a press release from TCL claims.
Further, should Minister Rodrigues-Birkett successfully lobby COTED for a waiver of the CET, the matter would become moot, GINA stated.