By Kiana Wilburg
With a two-day workshop as their platform, approximately 25 Canadian firms are hoping to forge a trustworthy and long-lasting relationship with local firms and entities to access opportunities that will arise as Guyana gets ready to welcome its oil sector.
The opening session of the seminar was held yesterday at the Marriott Hotel. In attendance at the event were Jan Sheltinga, Chargé d’Affaires of the Canadian High Commission; Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin; Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) Owen Verwey; Mike Critch, Treasurer of Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association along with Executive Director Kieran Hanley of Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association.
Canadian Trade Commissioner, Anand Harrilall, who chaired the forum, said that the High Commission is extremely pleased to partner with Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA), Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Association (NOIA), Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Go-Invest in what is expected to be a successful trade mission.
The Trade Commissioner said that Guyanese companies partnering with Canadian firms stand to benefit not only from the transfer of technology and technical knowledge, but also from business experiences.
Handley couldn’t agree more. In his presentation, the Executive Director noted that NEIA is a not-for-profit association of businesses which promotes the development of clean technology and the growth of the green economy in Canada.
He said that many of NEIA’s members are participants in and contributors to the oil and gas industry.
The Executive Director said, “We don’t view natural resource development and environmental responsibility as unrelated or conflicting notions. In fact, the drive to reduce waste in all of its forms, to mitigate risks, to monitor effects and to reduce impacts is a pursuit towards efficiency that results in strengthening the innovative capacity and resiliency of any industry.”
“To that end, there are enormous opportunities for environmental sector growth in tandem with the success of any oil and gas industry. That is why we are happy to partner with our friends at NOIA in the delivery of this workshop. One of our priorities in our strategy to drive growth in our sector is in helping our firms build relationships internationally and creating programming to support those activities.”
Hanley added, “Five years ago, NEIA’s members, through its Export and International Business Network, asked the association to help them investigate opportunities in and around the Caribbean region. Subsequently, we have been engaged in a variety of activities to meet that request.”
The Executive Director also noted that the company has provided training and information sessions, brought delegations of stakeholders from the region to Canada to share their expertise, and of course have led international missions to beautiful nations like Guyana.
In fact, he noted that the mission is the fifth delegation in and near the region in less than three years.
Hanley made it clear that the company is happy to be in Guyana. He said that the entity also applauds the support received from the Canadian High Commission.
Like the Executive Director, Chargé d’Affaires of the Canadian High Commission noted that she was delighted to be at the event yesterday in recognition of yet another Canadian and Guyanese partnership, this time on Oil and Gas at the level of the government and the private sector.
The Canadian envoy said, “Our bilateral commercial relationship has been growing. Over the past few years, merchandise trade between our countries has reached over Cdn$700 million, positioning Guyana as Canada’s largest merchandise trading market within CARICOM, and the third largest in the Caribbean.”
She noted that Canada is now Guyana’s top destination for exports, in particular, gold. The Chargé d’Affaires said that Canadian exports for the period was a mere Cdn$36.7 million, while merchandise imports from Guyana for the corresponding period amounted to Cdn$667 million. The Ambassador said that this is a real demonstration that Canada is not solely interested in the investment of Canadian companies in Guyana but overall Guyanese investments.
Additionally, Ms. Sheltinga said that Guyana has a new offshore industry without experience in development and production operations. She said that essentially, this was the situation in Newfoundland and Labrador in the early days before the development of Hibernia.
The envoy noted that the experience of Newfoundland can be a great potential resource to Guyana in developing its offshore industry through working with experienced partners—Government and private sector, suppliers and service companies.
The Ambassador said that some synergies have already been explored. In this regard, Sheltinga noted that a few years ago, a small contingent of Guyanese businesses participated in the NOIA conference to learn about the oil and gas industry. She said that since then, they have taken a bold decision to launch an oil and gas association drawing on the NOIA model and experiences.
Furthermore, the Canadian envoy said that the Government of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador have invested significant resources to encourage Canadian companies to promote Canadian values and operate abroad with the highest ethical standards. She asserted that this includes areas related to Occupational Health and Safety, gender and respecting labour codes. She noted that this is why Canadian companies are valued and that there are several examples from which to draw.
“As early adopters of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles, Canadian mining companies are pioneering models to support children and families. A tangible example is the Children’s Need & Development Initiative by Guyana Goldfields Inc. and Aurora Gold Mines through which over a dozen non-governmental organizations and communities in proximity to the mining site receive support for children and youth development work.”
The envoy said that Canada’s extractive sector has a world reputation for innovation in developing increasingly challenging resource reserves to realise economic gains and at the same time upholding human rights and environmental principles. As a result, she noted that partner countries are increasingly looking to learn from Canadian models of extractive sector development as they look to capture the potential of their own natural resource endowments.
Sheltinga said that Guyana and Canada have been partners for many years, and that Canada remains committed to continue building on this strong partnership to secure economic prosperity for all Guyanese.
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