Nov 15, 2019 News
By Kemol King
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, has asserted that Guyana’s sister states in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) must foster fair and respectful trade relationships with this country if they want to capitalise on its newfound patrimony.
He was at the time responding to questions about the relevance of CARICOM to Guyana, given the community’s history of putting up barriers to trade that disenfranchise local businesses.
“We always have to be part of CARICOM.” Jagdeo said.
But he maintains that the CARICOM Single Market Economy has to be fair to Guyana. Jagdeo, whose party is a major contender in the 2020 General and Regional Elections, said that if there is no fair treatment from states like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana will reciprocate.
The former President explained that this matter of ill-treatment from CARICOM sister states is one that has been fought for a very long time. In his experience, arguments have been had even at the level of heads of government meetings.
“This is not a new complaint. It’s been a complaint that we’ve had for a long time.”
The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) is advocating for Guyana to use the attractiveness of its oil wealth to leverage fairer terms.
“They’re utilizing every trick in the book to block Guyana from being the breadbasket of the Caribbean,” said Senior Vice President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Timothy Tucker.
He and several other executives of the Chamber are charging Government to reassess its relationship with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to determine just how much it is doing for Guyanese businesses.
During a press conference held by the Georgetown Chamber at its Waterloo Street office on Wednesday, Tucker said that Guyana has to overcome a series of barriers to be able to trade at a fair level with its sister States.
The VP said that COTED, for instance, has gotten a request from Trinidad and Tobago to remove Common External Tariffs (CETs) from safety equipment. This raises concerns for the Chamber, because Guyana still has no local content policy or legislation. If the CETs are removed from those equipment, with nothing telling companies that they should give local businesses first preference, Tucker explained that local suppliers would run to Trinidad to buy their equipment, because they’ll see an opportunity to save money.
Guyana is hosting a series of ships offshore, and the advent of the oil sector has called for even more safety equipment for workers stationed miles out there. It was posited how much value would be moved from Guyana to Trinidad and Tobago if that country’s request is granted.
Already, a horde of T&T business have moved in, as seen during the Guyana Safety Forum of October last, where the Energy Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago excluded this country’s private sector from properly participating. During that forum, a number of T&T businesses set up exhibitions to get safety equipment sold out for use offshore Guyana.
That’s just one of the issues holding the country back, according to the GCCI.
“We have to fight with all of the different tariffs, taxes, Value Added Tax (VAT)… We’re now going on the coattails of Trinidad to get [CETs] removed so we can become competitive.”
And when Guyana clear one obstacle, some Caribbean nations try to move the goalpost again, Tucker fretted. Barbados, the GCCI has said, is asserting non-tariff barriers.
Even Jamaica, who Tucker says Guyana has the best trade relationship with out of all the CARICOM nations, poses unease.
He reminded that when Guyana attained the right to export poultry, Jamaica’s Chief Veterinary Officer cited lack of traceability of water as a concern. For a country like Guyana that does a lot of poultry on the highway, Tucker said that a lot of the water use is from creeks, instead of municipal water.
The barriers being posed, he says, are very “minute stuff”.
A substantial grouping from the Georgetown Chamber holds the same view.
The VP said that if Government wants to ensure Guyana prospers, it will have to focus on building a series of sectors, and that it should not neglect them for Petroleum alone.
“We’re bringing products in to supply the oil and gas [sector], and those products could have been manufactured even here and sent to the Caribbean, and supplied vessels locally.”
Questioned whether Guyana should leverage the attractiveness of its status as a budding petro-state, Tucker responded in the affirmative, but that Government, stubborn to advice, has squandered previous opportunities.
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