Govt should push to remove artificial barriers to trade – Ramkarran

first_imgGuyana-T&T MoU Amid heavy criticism of the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, there are now calls for the coalition Government to ensure that it takes a stand to ensure that Guyana gets a better deal on trade with that small island state.In his weekly Conversation Tree column, former Speaker of the National Assembly and Attorney-at-Law, Ralph Ramkarran reflected on the long relationship between the two countries, stating that it has been a cordial one and to some extent, of mutual benefit.Ramkarran, however, reminded that at one time after the twin-island republic gained independence, measures were put in place to protect the island’s economy. As such, it became difficult for Guyanese professionals to get jobs there and for Guyanese business people to invest.He also recalled that in the mid to late 1970s, Guyanese flooded into T&T to live and work, mainly illegally, because Guyana’s economy began to contract dramatically. At this time also, numerous Guyanese entered the business of ‘suitcase trading’ – a phenomenon which would endure for nearly two decades, he said.The former House Speaker reasoned that in recent years, the economy of T&T has been undergoing severe stress because of the fall in price for natural gas. In 2005, the price for natural gas was US$10 per MMBtu. Today, it is just about US$3. And as a major oil-producing nation, Trinidad is now facing the full brunt of this.“A T&T economy that cannot generate enough foreign exchange to feed investment has sent many Trinidadian business people with capital to Guyana, seeking investment opportunities. Trinidadians have been flooding Guyana for about two years and have been investing and Guyanese business people have become wary and sometimes resentful,” he observed.According to Ramkarran, the visit of Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley has been seen with bitterness as expressed in criticisms about the alleged one-sidedness of the MoU. He thinks that the Guyana Government did not appear to have taken the opportunity to raise with the T&T Government administrative obstructions that it has placed on the entry of Guyana’s exports.“If that assessment is correct, Guyana lost a golden opportunity to open up T&T’s economy to Guyana’s goods,” he explained in his column.Trojan HorseRamkarran referred to a letter published in sections of the media that written by Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) and former Foreign Trade and International Cooperation Minister Clement Rohee, who detailed the difficulty Guyana faced with T&T regarding trade during his years as Minister.Rohee, in his letter, described the MoU as a ‘Trojan Horse’, referencing the past when he as Minister tried persuading Trinidad to give Guyana greater market access for its rice by removing a number of non-tariff barriers which it had unilaterally imposed without the consent of Caricom’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).“I led several official/Private Sector missions to Port of Spain. The Trinidadians never budged. They found fault with the colour, length and smell of the Guyanese rice grain and claimed that they had to impose the non-tariff barriers for the sake of consumer protection,” he recalled.Rohee said the issues with T&T were not limited to rice, but also extended to Guyana’s sugar and beef exports. “Guyanese potential exporters of beef like their counterparts in the rice and sugar industries were frustrated. So much for free trade within Caricom and small wonder why the Single Market and Economy is floundering,” he added.Ramkarran, therefore, believes that this and other reasons appear to be the basis of the criticisms of the MoU. Nevertheless, he opined that the MoU was an opportunity between the two Governments to enhance cooperation, noting that T&T has the capacity and expertise to assist Guyana, which is in dire need of such assistance.“T&T business people should also be encouraged to invest in Guyana, subject to any local content laws which may be implemented, much as T&T did, enabling its business people to flourish during the oil years and much of its wealth to remain in T&T,” he added.However, he said with opportunities now opening up owing to Guyana’s advantageous position, Government should begin pressing T&T to remove its artificial barriers to trade.He observed too that the Guyana Government raised the issue of T&T’s recent reluctance to maintain its full support for Guyana in the border controversy with Venezuela, which was a significant departure from the island’s previous full support for Guyana’s case.“Prime Minister Rowley’s change of posture and full endorsement of Guyana’s position is now welcome. Demarcation of maritime boundaries to eliminate overlaps appears to have to await further discussion,” the prominent Attorney noted in his weekly column.last_img read more