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Removal of non-tariff barriers to trade among key topics in Guyana, Trinidad MoU

Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago on Sunday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate in the areas of trade and investment, agriculture and food security, infrastructure, energy, security, education, tourism, sports and infrastructure.

The document was signed by Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Hugh Todd and Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Dr. Amery Browne in the presence of Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr. Keith Rowley. The event took place at State House signally a long-term partnership between the two nations.

“What we have charted is a joint commitment on how we are going to secure the future of the people of these two countries by working together, by partnerships, looking at joint opportunities, looking at low hanging fruits and developing a medium to long-term pathway through which we will enjoy success,” President said in his statement to the media at State House, Georgetown on Sunday morning.

Dr. Rowley is in Guyana to attend the recently concluded Agricultural Expo and President Ali said he is pleased with the discussions he had with the PM.

Dr. Rowley spoke about the importance of reducing the region’s food import bill. He said “we have to have the vision of what can be done, we have to appreciate the resources within our borders and we have to guide our people to a place of taking responsibility for our own future.”

According to the MOU, efforts will be made to address the non-tariff barriers and other impediments to the flow of goods and services between Guyana and Trinidad. This has been a sore issue for the Guyanese private sector leading to the issuance of a statement from the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) calling on the President to withhold signing this agreement until those barriers are removed.

The Trinidadian PM was asked what will be done to remove the restrictions which blocks the importation of Guyanese honey into that country –a sore issue for some years.

In response, he did not give a timeline but said: “We intend to not let artificial Phyto-sanitary barriers prevent us from expanding our possibilities for trade in all agricultural products.

“We are not going to be reckless, we are not going to be cavalier because there is the requirement to have Phyto-sanitary control to protect all of us but…going forward we want to ensure that when we lift those barriers, that there’s reasonable and sound scientific basis for doing it and once we do that, the vested interests will have to be asked to come along.”

Trinidad and Tobago’s honey, bees and bee products are guided by the island’s age-old Food and Drug Act of 1960 and Beekeeping and Bee products Act of 1935. The law bars not only the importation of honey but also being one mile from the shore during transshipment. In 2015, a U.S.$3,000 fine was imposed on Guyanese company Laparkan in 2015 for coming within one mile of the island’s shores.

As efforts are promised to resolve these issues, the PM noted that there will be “pushbacks” to this and other collaborations which will be implemented but they will be asked to participate.

Within the next three months, a high-level bilateral committee comprising of both public and private sectors will be established to oversee the implementation of the MoU.

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