Trinidad gave Guyana a hard time in CARICOM single market

Dear Editor,

The closure of Trinidad’s State-owned oil refinery (Petrotrin)  closely resembles the ‘restructured’ GuySuCo of Guyana.

And just as large numbers of Guyanese sugar workers, service companies, small and micro businesses, contractors and contracted employees are either on the breadline or destroyed completely as a result of the closure of several sugar estates in Guyana in the same way, large numbers of Trinis in Gasparillo known as a ‘fenced community’ in southern Trinidad will be on the breadline; Trinidadian service companies, small and micro businesses, contractors and contracted employees will find it difficult to survive.

With such a horrendous political problem like a petard in their hands, the Trinbago government is looking to Guyana’s oil and gas industry to help it offset the political, social and economic impact of the closure of Petrotrin.

A Trojan Horse in the form of an MOU has arrived in Georgetown.

Which CARICOM member state did Guyana turn to for help to offset the social and economic impact of the closure of our sugar estates? Did it turn to Trinidad and Tobago, so that now it has to reciprocate?

In any event, will the impending GOG/T&T MOU be reciprocal, if so in what areas?

See how T&T has spotted an opportunity with Guyana’s emerging oil and gas industry to help it climb out of a mammoth hole in which it has found itself? Did our government do the same?

Did the APNU+AFC look around in CARICOM to seek opportunities to address the problems affecting our sugar industry before shutting down estates or were they victim of the ostrich head in the sand syndrome believing that they know it all as they are wont to do?

I recall when as Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation I was tasked with three responsibilities; first was persuade Trinidad to give Guyana greater market access for its rice by removing a number of non- tariff barriers which it had unilaterally imposed without the consent of CARICOM’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).

I led several official/private sector missions to Port of Spain. The Trinidadians never budged. They found fault with the colour, length and smell of the Guyanese rice grain and claimed that they had to impose the non-tariff barriers for the sake of consumer protection.

The second issue had to do with our sugar.

This time ‘round my mission was to encourage the Trinidad authorities to import certain amounts of Guyana’s Brown (raw) sugar to be refined into ‘white sugar’ since Trinidad was the only sugar producing country with a refinery in the Community.

We made out a case based on studies that it would be to the mutual advantage of both countries were the two countries to engage in a joint venture envisaging the production and refining of sugar.

We further suggested that Trinidad could set up a sugar refinery in Guyana which had a competitive advantage with respect to cost of production especially labour cost, yield per acre etc; when all the factors are taken into consideration in respect to sugar production in CARICOM.

The Trinidadians never agreed.

They argued that for them to export their refinery to Guyana would mean the loss of jobs for hundreds of Trinidadians in the refinery industry.

The third mission had to do with beef exports to CARICOM countries especially Trinidad and Tobago.

Beef production had quadrupled under the PPP/C administration. Cattle farmers were prospering. Cattle farmers wanted to export their good quality beef to member states of the community. To them the free trade rules gave them a competitive advantage.

With an economic brief and feasibility study in my possession I took the matter to COTED. There was complete surprise by my colleague ministers over the extent to which beef production had risen in Guyana and what Guyana was applying for.

A host of technical arguments were raised by member states

particularly T&T. I felt we were badly treated, so as a compromise, rather than getting nowhere, the Guyana delegation agreed that the CARICOM Secretariat, together with the regional body responsible for testing the cattle industry and beef production facilities in member states would conduct a scientific investigation on beef production in Guyana.

The investigation was successfully conducted and confirmed that Guyana’s beef could be exported to CARICOM member states.

No sooner had the investigation been circulated to member states, up went a number of trade barriers to Guyana’s beef exports. Guyanese potential exporters of beef like their counterparts in the rice and sugar industries were frustrated.

So much for free trade within CARICOM and small wonder why the Single Market and Economy is floundering.

Guyana’s economic and foreign trade interests within CARICOM’S Single Market and Economy has been a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go.

Will the GOG/T&T MOU make life different? If so for whom?

Yours faithfully,

Clement J. Rohee

 

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