PSC Exec urges T&T Private Sector to help dismantle trade barriers

– also warns of foreign companies manipulating system to register as locals

Longstanding Private Sector Commission (PSC) Executive Member, Ramesh Dookhoo on Tuesday had some firm words for the Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) private sector… about the need for equity in their business and trade dealings in Guyana.
The Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) had its annual luncheon on Tuesday at the Princess Hotel. During the proceedings, Dookhoo got on stage and proceeded to talk about local content and trade barriers.

PSC Executive Ramesh Dookhoo

In comments directed to members of the Trinidad private sector who were present, Dookhoo also spoke of the various trade barriers in place by Trinidad, which serves to block Guyanese exports to that market and which are not being adequately addressed by the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).
“We will respect Trinidad’s private sector more when you advocate some of the things that bother us. Like your illegal honey legislation, which is on the books and going on for years and years. And every time at COTED, it’s back on the agenda. And your Minister will come and say, yes, we’re looking at it. And it’s going on for 25 years.”
“So, you need to push your Minister. Like we’re going to push our Minister, with your questions. When the Trinidad private sector recognises the trade barriers that are put up by Trinidad for us trying to export to Trinidad, we will respect you more. We will embrace you tighter than we’re doing now,” Dookhoo said.

Dookhoo also urged that the Local Content Secretariat be imbued with the power to investigate companies not in compliance with the law. He referenced various practices he said are used by foreign businesses, to skirt Guyana’s local content provisions.
“Already we’re seeing foreign companies making their staff members shareholders in the company and doing all things, manipulative things, to qualify for the Local Content Register. So, I’d like you to take back the message, my friends from T&T, let us let our companies not encourage this.”
“And tell the Minister, that the authority given to the local content secretariat has to be deeper. It has to be associated with the Companies Act of Guyana and they must have more authority to investigate companies,” Dookhoo added.
In recent weeks, there has been much talk over trade relations between Guyana and Trinidad. This talk has particularly been in the context of COTED and also Guyana’s local content laws, which certain quarters in Trinidad have taken umbrage with.
The removal of trade barriers will be integral to Guyana’s push, in consort with other Caricom countries, to reduce the region’s food importation bill by 25 per cent by the year 2025. Guyana currently holds lead responsibility for agriculture, agricultural diversification, and food security in Caricom and is spearheading the regional body’s quest to reduce its US$5 billion food import bill.
Months after assuming office, President Ali had charged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to assess and address the hurdles related to exporting food and agricultural products to markets within the region. As such, concerns of barriers to trade against exports to some Caricom markets were raised with COTED last 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. They also found several technical and administrative regulations that were all hampering the export of Guyanese products.
Against this backdrop, Guyana had called on Caricom Member States at the COTED meeting to engage in bilateral discussions to iron out trade barriers with a view of expanding intra-regional trade. Similar views were shared by Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, Jamaica, and Barbados.
In fact, Guyana and Barbados have since moved forward to minimise the occurrences of these measures that frustrate intra-regional trade with the aim of reducing food importation bills, as part of the overall regional food security plan.