As Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley arrived in Guyana for the Regional Agri-Investment forum, one businessman Timothy Tucker is reanimating the discussion about non-tariff barriers to trade.
Timothy Tucker, who happens to be President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) posted on Facebook, “Dear President Ali, Don’t sign any MOU with Trinidad until PM Rowley removes all NON Tariff Barriers.”
This follows a Facebook post from Dr. Rowley that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is being finalised for cooperation between the two countries, after he and Dr. Ali held talks at State House on Tuesday.
“The two leaders engaged in broad, extensive bilateral talks and pledged to deepen ties between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. The discussions focused specifically on agriculture, energy and national security,” Dr. Rowley posted.
Also present at the meeting were Guyana’s Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh; Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat; Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha; Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond; and Foreign Secretary, Robert Persaud.
On the T&T side, those accompanying Rowley were Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, Senator Dr. Amery Browne; Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Senator Kazim Hosein; and Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Land, Fisheries, Senator Avinash Singh.
The main reason for Rowley’s visit is the agriculture forum. As lead on Agriculture in the CARICOM quasi-Cabinet, President Ali is spearheading a regional initiative to reduce the region’s food import bill by 25% by 2025. The inaugural agriculture forum is expected to unlock investment in aid of this goal, giving Guyana the added benefit of promoting the diversification of its economy.
The trade barriers Tucker mentioned would be an obvious hindrance to this regional effort, since they have historically focused on food products. The private sector has been complaining about these barriers for years. The GCCI unsuccessfully lobbied the previous David Granger administration not to sign an MoU, when T&T leaders visited Guyana in 2018.
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.
In March, Director at the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) Ramesh Dookhoo told Trinidad manufacturers that they should remove the “illegal” trade barriers.
The discussions had been reanimated after some Trinidadians expressed displeasure about the Local Content Act Guyana passed in December. Dookhoo had said that Guyana is prepared to embrace Trinidad, as long as it is respectful of Guyana’s laws.