Following criticism of Trinidad and Tobago’s trade barriers against Guyana by President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Timothy Tucker, an executive of another Guyanese business service organization, the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) has come forward.
Ramesh Dookhoo told Trinidadian manufacturers on Tuesday that they must advocate for fair treatment of Guyana with their government.
Dookhoo was meant to chair a question-and-answer segment at the GMSA’s business luncheon at the Ramada Georgetown Princess Hotel, but felt compelled by the opportunity to address Chief Executive Officer of the Trinidad & Tobago Manufacturers’ Association, Dr. Mahindra Ramesh Ramdeen, who led a small Trinidad private sector contingent at the event.
“I want to say to the Trinidad private sector that we are here to embrace you on our terms. Don’t be disrespectful of us. Don’t be disrespectful of our laws. You have some more deadly local content laws than we have,” Dookhoo said.
He was referring to criticism of Guyana’s Local Content Act 2021 by some Trinidadians, and a suggestion which was made by the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation that the Act is in contravention with CARICOM’s Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC).
Dookhoo said, “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 years.”
The transshipment of Guyana’s honey through Trinidad has been banned for many years. Dookhoo reminded that the matter has come up on the agenda of multiple meetings of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), a CARICOM organ which promotes these things in accordance with regional statutes.
The matter even came up in 2018 when GCCI unsuccessfully lobbied the then government against signing a memorandum of understanding with Trinidad if this and other barriers were not removed.
Dookhoo said that President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali prefers bilateral discussion to resolve this issue, since COTED has not been helpful. Dr. Ali, as recently as Sunday, said Guyana is in discussion with CARICOM member states on removing barriers to trade.
But Dookhoo said that discussions with Trinidad have yielded no results whatsoever.
“When the Trinidad private sector recognizes the trade barriers that are put up by Trinidad… we will respect you more. We will embrace you tighter than we’re doing right now,” Dookhoo said.
Furthermore, the veteran business exec said that Trinidadian businesspersons should encourage their peers not to employ manipulative tactics to qualify for the local content register established by government. He said it has been observed that some companies are doing this by, for example, making some of their staff members shareholders. He urged Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat, who was present at the luncheon, to ensure the local content secretariat is given authority to investigate corporates, in this regard.