Ease export restrictions on food items – Guyana advocates at WTO forum

Guyana has used its platform at the Twelfth Session of the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to advocate on behalf of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) for small and developing States and the easing of export restrictions on food items, among other things.
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, Hugh Todd is presently at the conference which is being held from June 12 to 15 in Geneva, Switzerland.
In his address to delegates on Sunday, Todd spoke of the need for an agriculture reform programme that safeguards developing States and their economies.
“We support a future work programme for negotiations on agriculture that safeguards flexibilities for small vulnerable economies and least developed members. The agriculture reform programme should ensure that our countries can continue giving support to our food systems for enhanced food security and income generation,” he noted.

Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd in Geneva, Switzerland

“It should not require any reduction in our domestic support entitlements or our bound tariffs. Further, as part of a positive outcome on food security at MC12, WTO Members should pledge to temper or eliminate the practice of imposing export restrictions on food items, including food purchased for humanitarian purposes by the World Food Programme,” Todd further said.
Stressing the need for tangible outcomes, the Foreign Affairs Minister noted that negotiations on fisheries subsidies have been 20 years in the making. He further stressed that such an agreement must not punish small and vulnerable economies, which have not contributed to overcapacity and overfishing.
“The WTO must play its part in comprehensive responses to global pandemics. In so doing, there should be recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of individual WTO Members to participate in the global response,” Minister Todd explained.
“This means that highly resourced members should commit to sharing that capacity with lesser-endowed Members. This includes finding a way to provide equitable access to patented supplies, as and when needed, without undermining the incentives provided for innovation by the intellectually property system,” he added.
Todd also chaired a meeting of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) caucus in his capacity of the Caricom Spokesperson on WTO Issues. The meeting updated Caricom delegations on the latest developments and helped to refine the regional bloc’s positions on the issues of fisheries, agriculture agreement, WTO reform, and E-Commerce.
“During the meeting, Caricom Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the need for an agreement on fisheries negotiations, the inclusion of language on special and differential treatment for economies, the definition of fish, and the issues required for WTO reform,” an information note from the Foreign Affairs Ministry stated.
Guyana’s advocacy for easing of restrictions on food exports mirrors its efforts in Caricom to advance regional food security. While chairing the Caricom Special Ministerial Task Force on food production and food security, Guyana hosted the recently concluded Agri-Investment Forum and Expo.
President Dr Irfaan Ali has said that in the next four years, with the assistance of more diversified crops, Guyana would aim to reduce Caricom’s food import bill by 25 per cent. To this end, the President had made a comprehensive presentation to regional heads on food security strategies during Caricom’s 33rd Inter-Sessional Meeting in March.
Months after assuming office, President Ali had charged the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry to assess and address the hurdles related to exporting food and agricultural products to markets within the Region. As such, concerns about barriers to trade in some Caricom markets were raised with the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) earlier this year.
The Ministry subsequently formed a National Working Group on Barriers to Trade against Exports from Guyana. According to the assessment on market access by the Working Group, most of the challenges found were related to technical measures including sanitary and phytosanitary measures. It also found several technical and administrative regulations that were all hampering the export of Guyanese products.