By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
Yesterday, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, was keen to register his “strong” support and advocacy for Caricom, the single market and economy, and the achievable prospect of great integration among the people of this region.
He said that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government has a history of advancing regional endeavours. Therefore, he commended the APNU+AFC government for allowing Guyana to further sister-sister relations with neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago in the form of the Memorandum of Understanding on Energy.
However, Jagdeo’s concern with the MOU is that the negotiations to arrive at the document, from all indications, seem to have not featured the interests of Guyana especially as these relate to trade.
At his press conference, Jagdeo told the media that he is all for regional prosperity, “but we are to look out for our interest too.”
Jagdeo said that Guyana has to be able to stand up for itself when its interests are downgraded by other countries that use excuses for not complying with the trade agreements.
He said that he expected APNU+AFC to stand up for Guyana but “Unfortunately, we have a President who seems to have a proclivity for presiding over lopsided agreements.”
Jagdeo continued, “I believe that the President does not understand his responsibility in this regard. I am saying this because Prime Minister Rowley said that he did not know of the honey issue, he thought it was a Granada issue. He only learnt about it when he came to the meeting here. This tells you a lot about how we have pursued our national interests.”
Jagdeo then questioned who the negotiators were for the MOU and what was there negotiating brief?
He said that the negotiators seemed to have not even told T&T about our trade issues. Jagdeo then noted that the problem Guyana is having with the transshipment of honey through Trinidad is not the only trade problem facing the nation.
“What’s happening to our lime, coconut water, poultry, beef, honey, ginger, pepper, pineapple, pumpkins? These are all of our exports too.”
Jagdeo said that he was disturbed by the utterances of Trinidad’s Minister of Agriculture, Clarence Rambharat.
He noted that the Trinidadian politician said, “One of the reasons we have been slow in allowing honey from outside of Trinidad is that so far, Trinidad has been able to maintain its honey disease free status.”
Jagdeo said that this is a frivolous excuse. He said that if that excuse is to be taken as valid, then Guyana can easily say it does not want, for instance, plantain chip from Trinidad. “You can just say we want to keep the plantain chips here in Guyana fresh because the one from Trinidad might not be fresh since it has to come over the sea and might become moist.”
Jagdeo then recalled another remark made by the Trinidad Minister of Agriculture, “We’ve committed to have another look at the law to see if we can create that environment to see if we could allow that in-transit once it doesn’t stay in the country and it is something that we have to look at.
“Also to see the risk of it being trans-shipped as opposed to staying in Trinidad. I am not afraid to say that we are very defensive in honey because we have a strong sector,”
Jagdeo said, “They are saying that they are defensive in honey because they have a strong sector. They did not read the agreements governing free trade, if that is the new excuse for stopping trade. Every country can block your exports because they can claim they have a strong sector.”
Jagdeo said that he thought that the treatment of Guyanese at Trinidad airport would have been addressed.
He said, “I have raised issues with several prime ministers and ministers responsible for that airport in Trinidad about the treatment of Guyanese passing through the airport. These issues have to be on the agenda too.
“So when our government goes to these negotiations. It has to look out for our interest too. And I am afraid that the Granger government dropped the ball on this one again.”
Jagdeo also said that the fact that the honey issue has not been addressed means that Guyana has not been adequately advocating economic diplomacy.”
The Opposition Leader said that the MOU is a “sell out.”
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