May 23, 2022 News
– new MoU to address investment, agriculture, energy
– leaders say new pact lays groundwork for CARICOM Agri/food response
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – Endless possibilities exist for Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) to partner in a number of developmental areas following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries on Sunday.
Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Hugh Todd and his Trinidadian counterpart, Dr. Amery Browne signed the document on behalf of their respective countries at a State House ceremony yesterday. The MoU which was signed before Heads of State, President Irfaan Ali and Prime Minister Keith Rowley, is an agreement for the two nations to work together in areas trade investment, removal of nontariff barriers, energy, education, security, tourism and any other determined by the two leaders.
While Guyana and Trinidad will work to address their own trade barriers, President Ali who leads the Agriculture Sub-committee of CARICOM, said that special focus was also placed on the issue from the regional level where, “a comprehensive document” was drawn up for the entire region, itemizing every issue and every product; “saying where we are on those issues and the action that is required by the member state.”
Guyana’s discussion with Trinidad on this matter brought preclearance conditions such as phytosanitary to the fore. This is an issue CARICOM leaders had indicated was being used by regional private sectors to keep out non-local products. This important matter is now being placed under CARICOM’s Single Market and Economy (CSME) committee chaired by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley for special attention.
Guyana and Trinidad will experiment with cargo, plus ferry facilities that will make moving people, goods and services between the two nations easier. Additionally, partnerships in energy will be explored. President Ali said that T& T has already been participating deeply in the local energy sector, but collaboration will be looked at on a broader sense as it evolves. It was noted that a number of possibilities was touched on regarding energy and they are all on the table. However, “some of these discussions we would like to have them go further behind closed doors because we have other parties involved and we do not want to blindside anybody,” PM Rowley noted.
In the immediate, near and long term future, PM Rowley said that there will be efforts between Guyana and Trinidad to have the nations’ young people cooperating on various issues, including agriculture which is a main concern at this time. “We intend to have them mix and train and share the responsibility,” and understand that the Caribbean is not hopeless. They will have to continue the work when those involved are retired to continue the mission of regional food security.
On local content, PM Rowley explained that everything will be done to address matters that hinder access to markets. Given Guyana’s local content legislation and the push back from the T&T private sector, Rowley said that from a government level, the matter is “not to be viewed through a negative lens but to understand what Guyana is trying to do. And from that stand point we have not aggressively taken any position”. Rowley pointed out also his reliance on what embodies the MoU and whatever intensions are codified in the Treaty of Chaguaramas. “So there is no need to get at each other’s throats, and start misrepresenting intensions and creating a negative environment. We believe the Treaty of Chaguaramas is sufficiently robust to deal with any of those matters.” However, a court of law interpretation regarding the local content legislation against the regional treaty is “normal” if required, Rowley submitted. He posited that “What we hope not to have is individuals going off on a frolic on their own and seek to control the narrative into a nothingness cause.”
Both Guyana and Trinidad had an opportunity to discuss trade and other working areas with the State of Roraima following a presentation. The Brazilian state also wants to partner with the Caribbean in its ambitious food bill reduction goal. President Ali said that the state which produces numerous grains, onions and other basic agricultural products is offering investment, technical and other support to CARICOM. A proposal will be taken to the Heads of CARICOM to have Roraima part of the ministerial task force on agriculture in CARICOM.
The MoU signing comes after the three-day Agri-Investment Forum and Expo which saw the Caribbean Community coming together to address specifically, ways of improving the regional Bloc’s ability to increase its food production and reduce its dependence on foreigners for their food supply. President Ali pointed out that a strategic cooperation partnership is what has been formed. A bilateral commission will be established between public and private sector to achieve the obligations of the working document. Within three months, the work of this committee will begin to show, said the President.
In the outcome document following the forum and expo, the President said, the consensus was reiterated that a working business model was needed with Trinidad taking on the aggressive implementation of the model by an immediate follow up in August on the decisions and types of policies that are required for pushing the regional food agenda.
PM Rowley said, “We (CARICOM) have been frightened during the height of the COVID period at the extent of our vulnerability where even when we hand money in hand we could not buy food. And that situation is not going to change, it will get worst,” the T&T leader warned. He said the recent three day event was demonstrated that CARICOM can seek and find solutions to their many problems. During COVID, the Caribbean found itself denied access to its normal food supplies which comes from Australian, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, the US and others. “Our supply model is that we get our food from other people’s efforts in faraway lands.” CARICOM was then asked to look at its existing initiatives “to disentangle” nations from world food suppliers and to find mechanisms where regional food access is not impeded, destroyed or obstructed by others.
Rowley said CARICOM must expect some push back from “those who are comfortable with what is happening now,” and wants to keep the status quo. “They will not be happy to hear we intend to do something else.” As such, the T&T PM said, listen to whom and what is being said, and it will be known who supports CARICOM trying to feed itself and who does not.
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