Increased diplomatic ties and mutually beneficial bilateral agreements
GUYANA’S diplomatic activities for 2013 recorded continued progress at both the regional and international levels, through establishing new diplomatic ties, and furthering bilateral relationships with states within the international system.
Of significant importance have been agreements with CARICOM member states that are critical to regional security.
But the year’s achievements have been threatened by what can be described as very disturbing incidents that arose out of the Guyana-Venezuela border issue, and which threatened to derail the very good climate of relations that has been existing between the two neighbouring states over the past decade.
Guyana’s diplomatic ties were extended, with the formalisation of relations with several states.
The Republic of Kazakhstan and Guyana established ties through the signing of a communique by Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador George Talbot, and the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan, Ambassador Byrganym Aitimova.
Speaking on behalf of their respective countries, the high plenipotentiaries expressed confidence that the establishment of diplomatic relations will contribute to the promotion of trade, culture and friendship between the two countries.
The Republic of Kosovo was another, after the signing of a communique by Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and His Excellency, Mr. Enver Hoxhaj, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic accredited its first ambassador to Guyana in the person of His Excellency, Mr. Lehebib Abderahaman Didi. This was a result of Guyana’s shared support of the ideals and noble objectives of that country.
After decades of principled support for the right of the people of Palestine to an independent homeland, Guyana became the first CARICOM country to establish diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority.
Government also officially established a new high commission in one of South Africa’s three capitals, Pretoria, following the appointment of Barbara Halley as the new chargé d’affaires.
The Governments of Guyana and the United States signed a 2012- 2013 Letter of Agreement to modify specific objectives under the Barack Obama-led Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) that will see funding to the tune of $172M dedicated to deeper law enforcement and professionalisation, counter-narcotics control, money laundering and financial crimes, and support for the rule of law and anti-corruption. Under the modified CBSI pact, the Guyana Government will benefit from assistance in law enforcement training and enhanced port security. Immigration officers will be trained to
detect fraudulent documents and illicit smuggling of goods and persons.
Funding will also go to Guyana’s capacity to track money laundering and financial crimes and prosecution of those profiting from criminal activities. This aspect will draw a collective of personnel from the Ministry of Finance and the Director of Public Prosecution.
Another agreement that was concluded, the Cooperative Sensor Information Integration (CSII) initiative, allows the US, Guyana and other Caribbean countries to share data on land, sea and air traffic to detect, monitor and tackle illicit activities in the Caribbean. Guyana, as the sixth CSII participating nation, joined Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Meanwhile, Guyana, along with other CARICOM Heads, agreed to a Regional Crime and Security Strategy at the 24th inter-sessional conference of CARICOM Heads of Government held in Haiti. The Heads agreed that there must be a concerted effort to confront such threats as illicit trafficking, gang and youth violence, terrorism, and cyber security, while simultaneously addressing the issue of crime prevention.
To this end, the conference adopted a Regional Crime and Security Strategy that addressed many of the issues of member states, and which provided a common platform from which the Region could advance their fight.
Preserving the good neighbourly relations with Brazil remained a priority during the year and much emphasis was placed on pursuing the implementation of the activities under the wide ranging bilateral co-operation mechanisms.
Relations between the two countries maintained momentum especially with respect to the ongoing joint collaboration in the area of the development of infrastructure projects in Guyana. Those projects include the construction of hydro-electric plants and transmission lines needed to distribute any energy that will be generated eventually, improvement of the Guyana/Brazil road link, and the construction of a deep water port.
The first technical meeting of the Guyana/Brazil Joint Commission for the Development of Infrastructure was held in Brazil in 2013, followed by a Guyana team visiting that country. The team comprised officials from the Guyana Energy Agency, Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency. The team’s members participated in a workshop organised by ELETROBRAS and visited several hydro electric facilities. They were thus able to gather information which provides a full understanding of the hydro electric projects to be developed in Guyana, and to prepare and equip officials of the energy sector with the requisite skills to operate and manage these facilities. Approval has already been given for feasibility studies to be conducted.
Guyana and Chile also agreed to expand bilateral cooperation when the visit of a delegation from the Chile International Cooperation Agency culminated with an agreement to focus on a 2014-2016 programme of cooperation in agriculture, capacity building, mining, language training, and trade relations.
Guyana and Barbados, after a joint commission meeting, agreed on matters which will see the two CARICOM states further strengthening their relationship. The outcome of the meeting resulted in agreements on development in the fields of agriculture/fisheries, education, tourism/hospitality, emigration and security, investments and civil aviation.
Relations between Guyana and Suriname continued to improve through 2013. There were a few projects that were able to get underway.
Visits by Officials
Suriname’s Speaker, Dr. Jennifer Geerlings- Simons, paid a three – day visit to Guyana in October. She called on President Donald Ramotar and Members of Parliament during her visit.
Further, Colonel George Lewis, the Non Resident Military Attache to Suriname, paid an official visit to Suriname in November where he met with Minister of Defence Lamure Latour and Col. Ronni Benschop, Acting Chief of Staff of Suriname’s National Army.
There was notable progress in some areas identified for co-operation between Guyana and Suriname in 2013.
Bridging of the Corentyne River
The Suriname Government identified China Railway Construction Corporation (International) Ltd. to prepare the design and undertake the construction of the bridge across the Corentyne River. Works are set to commence soon.
The Guyana Government has sent letters of ‘no-objection’ to the Foreign Affairs Ministries of Suriname and China for the construction of the bridge.
Crime and security
A high-level security delegation attended a two – day meeting in Suriname with the Minister of Justice and Police to expand co-operation initiatives in the areas of law enforcement and revenue protection. The Guyana team consisted of Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee, then Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Gary Best, Commissioner of Police Leroy Brumell and Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority, Khurshid Sataur.
A significant outcome of the meeting was the agreement of the two countries to jointly patrol the Corentyne River to combat trafficking in persons and narcotics, weapons and arms smuggling, illegal migration, piracy and smuggling of goods.
Joint border commissions
Members of the Guyana National Border Commission and the Integral National Border Commission of Suriname met in Guyana early December for their third meeting of the year. The previous meetings were convened in April and August in Georgetown and Paramaribo respectively. The Guyana/Suriname Border Commission is expected to make recommendations to the Foreign Ministers of the two countries in resolving the outstanding issues related to the Guyana/Suriname border. The Foreign Ministers mandated that the Commissions take advantage of the exceptionally good relations between the two countries to facilitate a definitive resolution of the outstanding border issues between Guyana and Suriname.
Guyana and Venezuela delegations met at the Guyana International Conference Centre.
CARICOM lauded the efforts of the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela on the strides made towards good relations over the past years, despite Venezuela’s highly dubious contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899, that definitively delimited the territory between Guyana and Venezuela, is invalid.
It was noted that Guyana and Venezuela remained committed to the Good Offices Process of the United Nations Secretary General, to aid both countries in the search for a peaceful solution to the issue. The CARICOM Community has affirmed its unequivocal support for the maintenance and protection of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The successful negotiations with Venezuela in concluding another rice agreement for another year was another highlight of Guyana’s pro-active foreign policy. For the past three years, Venezuela has been the major export market for Guyana’s paddy and rice, accounting for approximately 60 percent of this commodity’s total exports.
Meanwhile, the Spanish-speaking state has also expressed an interest in buying more of Guyana’s products, including construction materials. Minister Rodrigues-Birkett said that discussions in this regard are continuing.
The current bilateral agreement between the two nations with regard the Petro Caribe deal has continued to benefit Guyana, particularly because of its modified structure that now allows for Guyana to receive petroleum via a system where rice is supplied at very favourable prices, in a first of its kind deal. It may be recalled that initially Guyana paid for petroleum at concessionary prices with an initial up front payment, and a lengthy period to pay the remaining debt over a number of years.
In furtherance of this pact, President Donald Ramotar, accompanied by Minister Rodrigues – Birkett, attended the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA)-PETROCARIBE Summit, where he said that the project was one of foresight and was seen in the Region as very important. He spoke of the role that the arrangement played, just after two years, in rendering assistance to the Caribbean during the world economic crises, and that has helped increase trade relations between the two states.
The two neighbours are also working to implement a Cold Chain Project, which will look at cold storage facilities for products for export.
The recently commissioned Hugo Chavez Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration, at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice, is another example of cooperation by the two nations. This centre was funded in part by the Government of Venezuela, to the tune of US$2 M.
Talks are also ongoing between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries regarding research vessel RV Teknik Perdana. In October, the vessel, which was conducting a survey in the Roraima Block, offshore Guyana, was intercepted by a Venezuelan Navy ship and ordered to cease its activities. The crew of the RV Teknik Perdana explained to the crew of the Venezuelan vessel that they were conducting a multi-beam survey of the sea floor in Guyana’s exclusive economic zone. However, the Venezuelan Navy ordered the vessel to sail to its Margarita Island, where it was seized for six days, then later released. Its captain Ukranian Igor Bekirov, was charged and released on bail for allegedly violating Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone.
Guyana’s Foreign Minister said that government has opted to pursue a course of reasoned dialogue to preserve the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but ‘it will not compromise its principles nor sacrifice any of its national patrimony for ephemeral gains displayed on the altar of cooperation’.
Guyana and Barbados, after a joint commission meeting, agreed on matters which will see the two countries strengthening their relationship. The outcome of the meeting saw agreements on developments in agriculture/fisheries, education, tourism/hospitality, emigration and security, investments and civil aviation.
Minister Rodrigues-Birkett signed a Framework Agreement paving the way for Guyana to join the Southern Customs Union (MERCOSUR) as an Associate Member. The initiative arose out of a decision taken by the Council of Ministers at the MERCOSUR Summit held in Brasilia in December 2012, to foster and strengthen the relationship between Mercosur and Guyana. Among the areas covered by the Framework Association Agreement are political, economic, trade, productive development, cultural and other cooperation issues.
Guyana was selected to serve on the reconstituted Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). Minister Rodrigues-Birkett attended the Group’s meeting held in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
This is the first time that Guyana will serve on this body.
World Trade Organisation (WTO)
The World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Indonesia saw Guyana represented by Minister Rodrigues-Birkett in her capacity as the CARICOM designated Ministerial spokesperson on WTO matters. The WTO Ministers arrived at consensus and adopted the Bali Package, a delicately balanced compromise text in the areas of trade facilitation, agriculture, and cotton development, after much political interactions and tradeoffs on major issues. The package also included issues faced by Least Developed Countries.
CARICOM/Canada trade negotiations
Regarding CARICOM/Canada trade negotiations, Canada has not extended the waiver agreement which ended on December 31, 2013. This agreement was linked to the WTO waiver for CARIBCAN, which is the existing preferential trade arrangement to the Commonwealth Caribbean.
It is expected that some agreement will be reached in 2014.
Economic Partnership Agreement
A key focus in 2013 has been CARIFORUM’s preparation for the first five-year review of the agreement. Two separate consultancies were undertaken respectively by ECLAC and the European Commission. At the national level, the Trade Department coordinated activities relating to the consultant’s field visit to Guyana to undertake preparatory work. The ECLAC consultant visited during September and the consultancy team for the Joint EU/CARIFORUM study visited during November. The consultant met a wide cross section of key public and private sector stakeholders.
The ECLAC Report is expected to be available for review in January 2014 and the EU/CF consultant’s draft report should be ready by June 2014.
Caribbean Regional Indicative. Programme
CARIFORUM Ministers in October endorsed the concept of Multi-Country Programming as an acceptable implementation modality. Guyana’s Foreign Ministry will continue close collaboration with other ministers and the Guyana Embassy in Brussels to identify suitable proposals for consideration.
CARIFORUM/ACP COCONUT PROJECT (GUYANA)
Guyana has benefitted for project funding to carry out a needs assessment study to identify opportunities for the development of the coconut industry in the major CARIFORUM coconut member states. The study identified specific project interventions and the accompanying measures aimed at boosting productivity, profitability and competitiveness of the industry. Guyana’s Embassy in Brussels was instrumental in the development of the project and the sourcing of the project support.
The Needs Assessment Study produced by the consultants was reviewed at a two- day workshop in Guyana during the Caribbean Week of Agriculture. The subsequent recommendations and road map emerging were then presented to regional stakeholders and the Special Agriculture COTED.
Three hundred and twenty-two persons applied for re-migrant status in 2013, the majority from the United States of America. The remigrant policy has been amended to allow persons to purchase vehicles when they return home to save having to cope with left hand drive vehicles.