– as some politicians voice fears of foreign domination
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
The government is not oblivious to the concerns of Guyanese who think that there is an attempt by Trinidadians to impose themselves on the shaping of this nation’s embryonic oil and gas sector. However, the government is also taking into consideration the fact that Guyana has much to learn and that the country is expected to honor and respect the spirit of certain treaties and agreements.
That is the position articulated by Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman during a recent interview with this newspaper.
Trotman was told about the concerns of many Guyanese on the issue. Also, this newspaper quoted Trotman’s predecessor, Robert Persaud who noted that Guyanese were treated with scant respect by Trinidadians, who are now expecting to be welcomed with open arms.
Trotman said, “We have to be careful, but we are a member of Caricom. We are also part of the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME). Guyanese are benefitting from Guyana being a member of CSME when they find themselves in places like Trinidad, Barbados and Antigua; that is a consideration that cannot and should not be ignored.”
Trotman noted that Cabinet last Tuesday agreed to the renewal of the Framework Agreement for the deepening of bilateral cooperation between the governments of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Framework Agreement was signed between the two parties in August 1999 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and was valid for ten years initially, then renewed for five successive periods, but was never enacted.
It was during the meetings on the margins of the 28th Inter-Sectional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), held in February 2017 that President David Granger and Trinidad’s Prime Minister, Keith Rowley agreed to give effect to the agreement.
The renewal will now be for a further ten years and provides for bilateral cooperation in trade and investment, agriculture, agro-processing, petroleum extraction, fisheries and the environment.
A high-level commission comprising the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Trade of both countries or their identified alternatives will oversee the implementation of the agreement.
Trotman said that this will strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
Further, he said that within this agreement there will be a mechanism to provide for the transfer of skills for the benefit of Guyanese.
“It has been suggested that there be a proper framework for training and the movement and transfer of expertise,” said Trotman. The Minister said that the issue will also be considered with the construction of the local content policy.
Via commentary on his Facebook page, Persaud had opined that the discourse on, and direction of Guyana’s oil and gas development framework must not be driven nor dictated by the Trinidad and Tobago experience, or any other singular case.
He said, “It seems recently many of the non-governmental discourses or conversations have had a strong TT fragrance. I know the record will show that I signed an MoU on collaboration for oil and gas with TT (as was and is being done with other bilateral and multilateral partners) but this was not to be a gateway for TT domination rather it was about mutual cooperation.”
Persaud added, “Guyana must do what’s best for Guyana and Guyanese as we develop a new sector learning from the best (and TT does not fall into this category) examples and experiences.”
Persaud was also quoted in sections of the media saying that recent history has shown that the Twin Island Republic has been less than welcoming in their approach to facilitate Guyanese business, but now project an air of ‘entitlement’ for Guyana to do likewise.
“For instance, I recall, as Agriculture Minister, the battles we fought to get Trinidad and Tobago to import some of our agricultural produce even when the region’s extra-CARICOM food import bill was US$4 billion, annually,” Persaud, who served as Minister of Agriculture prior to taking up the natural resources portfolio, said.
Interest from Trinidadian companies in business opportunities in Guyana has skyrocketed. A large business delegation from the twin island visited Guyana in June seeking partnerships in the oil and gas sector and other supporting industries. Trinidadian personalities have also been featuring prominently in ongoing public discussions on oil and gas in Guyana.
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