Strengthening trade, advancing food security
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— Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago working to ensure right policy framework in place

PRESIDENT, Dr. Irfaan Ali, on Thursday, said the discussions during his ongoing State visit to Trinidad and Tobago are centred on ensuring that the right policy framework is in place to support regional trade and advance the plans on food security.

The Head of State arrived in Trinidad on Wednesday, along with a team which included Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Hugh Todd; Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha; and Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond, among other government officials.
At a joint press conference with Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley, both Heads of State said high on the agenda was collaboration between the two countries to further push the regional food security agenda.

President, Dr. Irfaan Ali (Office of the President photo)

The discussions, according to President Ali, is set to ensure that the region has the right policy framework in place to support the regional trade system and logistics/logistics hub which must be developed to advance the regional plans on food security.
He said, too, that the region must move quickly and as a unit to achieve its targets.

“So, what we’re working on between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago in relation to food security is combining our efforts, combining our policymaking environment and the framework; combining our commitment to removing the barriers, combining our access to technology and use of technology, combining our educational system or resource development system into one integrated whole in advancing the food production plan of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana,” President Ali said.
The two countries are also working on tourism and trade opportunities.

According to President Ali, the region must be ready to make tough decisions to confront the various challenges globally and build systems to create an environment which will see the development of necessary capacity to confront these challenges and further chart a sustainable pathway for development.

Additionally, he posited that the two countries have committed to advancing actions that will position them as leaders in all of the global challenges.
Further to this, President Ali noted that Guyana and Trinidad must be able to provide global leadership on food security.

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley (Office of the President photo)

He noted that while Trinidad already has a sophisticated manufacturing and agro-processing industry, it is currently working on building capacity to optimise production.
As such, the Head of State mentioned that these are the types of discussions that are ongoing to advance food security and further achieve the regional goal of reducing the food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.

Prime Minister Rowley told reporters that efforts are being made to produce more food in the region and to reduce artificial trade barriers between CARICOM countries.
“Whatever the non-tariff barrier is, if there are barriers then increasing CARICOM production for CARICOM countries will not succeed,” he said.
However, he noted that if member states allow the regional market to accept food and raw materials safely from their sister CARICOM nations, then the regional market could generate production on a scale which can be significant.

In 2016, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) was placed back on the CARICOM agenda and member states recommitted to the scheme.

Dr Rowley said that while in some countries there are some safety and sanitary issues, these must not become non-tariff barriers and countries should work to strengthen intra-regional trade.
Following the 2016 recommitment to the CSME, he said things were at the time moving at an undesirable pace and subsequently the world was hit by issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, both of which disrupted the global supply chain.

President, Dr. Irfaan Ali and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley, at the joint media conference on Thursday (Office of the President photo)

“We now know that there’s a fiery urgency to get it done now. We do not have time. The experts have pointed out to us that what we have experienced in 2020 and 2021 to 2022 is likely to happen again and again and again. Our future looks like that,” he said.

Under these circumstances, Dr Rowley noted that the leadership of countries within the region needs to do what has to be done and this entails a change in the model on imported foods to one where countries produce what they consume and consume what they produce to slash their food import bills

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