Corentyne businessman and President of the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce Abraham Subnauth has told Stabroek Business that the strengthening of trade ties between Guyana and Suriname could serve as a catalyst for the creation of a genuine single market in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
“You get a feeling that it is up to us, Guyana and Suriname, as neighbours and as CARICOM member countries to kick-start genuine intra-regional trade. There is that feeling that if it can happen between our two countries it can happen in the region,” Subnauth said.
Against this backdrop Subnauth said that the Corentyne business community was eagerly awaiting “further developments” arising out of the first ever public/private sector bilateral trade discourses between the two countries held in January.
Subnauth told Stabroek Business that it was important that the two sides “make something” of the wide-ranging January talks which featured representation from the Guyanese and Surinamese Foreign Ministries, Trade Ministries and Customs and Tourism sectors as well as the private sector support organizations.
Subnauth said that while the meeting had allowed for formal discussions on both sides on issues that included smuggling, bridging the Corentyne River, piracy and tourism he believed that a point had been reached where the business communities on both sides of the river had grown impatient with the ‘red tape’ associated with bilateral trade. He said that the Surinamese, particularly, had used the January deliberations to restate their frustrations over what they asserted were the costly and time-consuming delays associated with getting goods into Guyana. “At the trade meeting the Suriname Chamber actually made presentations that had to do with the costs associated with landing goods on this side of the river compared with other ports,” Subnauth said.
“Sometimes businesses in the Corentyne wonder about all this talk about a regional free market when there are so many frustrations associated with regularizing trade between two members of CARICOM that already enjoy the advantage of closeness,” Subnauth said.
The Upper Corentyne Chamber head said that while there had been a commitment that the January forum would not simply be a ‘talk shop’ the outcomes could only be evaluated based on the decisions that followed the deliberations. Stabroek Business understands that documented understandings on both sides are anticipated from state agencies including the respective Customs entities and from the respective private sector support groups.
According to Subnauth one of the positive outcomes of the deliberations for the Corentyne business community was the opportunity they afforded to learn more about Suriname’s trade regime including the country’s import prohibitions, restrictions and licensing, measures directly affecting imports and exports and the country’s “in transit policy.” One of the sensitive issues raised at the January meeting was the oft-expressed concerns by local manufacturers over the smuggling of goods into Guyana from Suriname. Subnauth said that he believed that the regularization and growth of legitimate trade between the two countries had to take account of the need to address the issue of smuggling.