President Ali warns ‘there will be consequences’
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President Dr. Irfaan Ali delivering the keynote address at the GMSA’s 26th Annual Presentation of Awards Ceremony at the Ramada Princess Hotel on Friday
President Dr. Irfaan Ali delivering the keynote address at the GMSA’s 26th Annual Presentation of Awards Ceremony at the Ramada Princess Hotel on Friday

…if trade barriers not dismantled for regional integration

BARRIERS to intra-regional trade must be dismantled for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to realise its true potential, and in this regard, President Dr. Irfaan Ali has warned that there will be consequences for countries that are hesitant about removing those barriers and allowing free trade.

“We cannot be serious in this region about integration, all the fancy talk, if we are not willing to remove the barriers,” President Ali said while delivering the keynote address at the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA)’s 26th Annual Presentation of Awards Ceremony at the Ramada Princess Hotel at Providence, East Bank Demerara on Friday.

The Head of State told the consortium of business people at the ceremony that his government will be aggressively pursuing the removal of barriers to trade which hinder Guyana from realising its true export potential, including investing in the necessary infrastructure and apparatus to achieve it.

Importantly, the President was adamant that countries hesitant about removing those barriers will have to face consequences for their unwillingness to do so.

“We are going to lead the charge to remove the barriers to our products all across this region; there will be consequences for those who think they can keep the barriers forever. If you believe that you want to keep the barriers forever, then go right ahead, but, trust me, there will be consequences,” President Ali said.

CARICOM is a grouping of 20 countries considered developing states whose mandate rests on four main pillars: Economic integration; foreign policy coordination; human and social development; and security.

The body came into being on July 4, 1973 with the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which was revised in 2002 to allow for the eventual establishment of a single market and a single economy.

President Ali has been steadfast in his approach to promote regional trade; he made a similar call last Tuesday, while delivering an address at the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA)’s Dinner and Awards Ceremony, where he lobbied for members and stakeholders of the CARICOM region to see their economic space operating as one.

At that forum, he focused on intra-regional food trade, and highlighted the glaring disparity in the import and export of food regionally, while lobbying for more to be done to lessen the importation bills, saying that there are numerous products that could be produced in the region, using home-grown, or homemade materials and resources.

During his keynote address at Friday’s function, he reiterated, “Don’t tell us Guyana has the potential to be the food basket of the Caribbean, and then you block us on the other side!”

The Head of State has been actively engaging his regional counterparts in pursuing his objective of free and fair intra-regional trade. He has, so far, engaged in discussions with the Prime Minister of Barbados, Ms. Mia Mottley, and the President of Suriname, Mr. Chandrikapersad Santokhi about strengthening trade between the CARICOM nations.

“Prime Minister Mia Mottley has assured me, not only assured, but we have both set ourselves a timetable to dismantle all barriers between Guyana and Barbados to export and import our products; all the barriers,” the President told the GMSA.

While in Barbados for the 15th Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 15) in October, President Ali and Prime Minister Mottley engaged in bilateral discussions as they sought to strengthen relations between the two nations.

President Ali and Prime Minister Mottley discussed several initiatives to advance cooperation and investment in the areas of agriculture and fisheries, oil and gas, mining, forestry, tourism, the hospitality industry, transportation, housing and water resources.

Since their meeting, a high-level Barbadian investment team, headed by Barbadian Minister of Housing, Lands and Maintenance, Dr. William Duguid, paid Guyana a visit to explore opportunities in our housing and construction sectors.

Similarly, just last month, a team of 17 investors from Guyana’s neighbour to the east, Suriname, paid us a visit to explore the investment opportunities in the various economic sectors here. That trip followed a visit by President Santokhi, and a delegation of government and private sector members to Guyana in August 2021.

Following the visit in August, Suriname’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Co-operation Albert Ramdin said that the two countries, continental neighbours, are eying the possibility of merging the two economies into a single-market space, thereby boosting opportunities in both territories.

Against the backdrop of rigorously pursuing measures to dismantle trade barriers, the President has encouraged members of the manufacturing and services sector to prepare and align itself to reap the benefits to be derived from doing so.

“Whilst we are doing this type of battle, you have to be prepared; you have to build your business model to follow the direction of the policy,” he said.

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