MERCUSOR official heartened at Guyana interest

by Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
March 12, 2000

HEAD of the MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market) division of the Brazil Foreign Ministry, Mr Mauricio Favero, ended a four-day visit here Thursday, heartened at the interest shown by both the public and private sectors in forging closer economic links within the region.

Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), the Brazilian envoy said: "I am very happy with what I have seen here in Guyana... the eagerness... the enthusiastic interest of the private sector [and]...of public authorities concerning the increase of trade relations with Brazil".

He said that in just the same way MERCOSUR served as a training ground for gaining Brazil better international recognition, so too will it afford Guyana international acclaim.

"I think the Guyanese private sector is very interested in getting a better international recognition through the MERCOSUR market, mainly through the Brazilian market", Favero said.

His was the second visit paid here by a MERCOSUR official, at the invitation of the Guyana Government, since the signing last year of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for closer economic cooperation between Guyana and the four-nation trading bloc, said to be the fourth largest and among the fastest growing market in the world.

Initiated by Brazil, the agreement, which has to do specifically with trade and investment, was signed on June 28, 1999, in Rio de Janeiro by then President Mrs Janet Jagan. The grouping comprises Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uraguay and has a market potential of 200 million. It came into being in March 26, 1991, with the signing of the Treaty of Asuncion in Paraguay.

According to Director of the Foreign Service Institute, Mr Lloyd Searwar, who acted as moderator during the briefing, Favero spent Monday giving an introductory lecture, which principally dealt with the background and functions of MERCOSUR. His audience comprised mainly government officials, including those in the local Foreign Ministry, and members of the private sector.

He spent the following day in a working session, again with mainly government and Foreign Ministry officials and members of the private sector.

The session was broken up into three working groups, each of which looked at specific areas of activity contained in the MOU, namely `Investment', `Trade Promotion' and `Trade Information Exchange', with the objective of coming up with practical measures for getting the integration process off the ground.

City businessman, Mr Christopher Ram, headed the group which looked at `Investment', Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL)'s Manging Director, Mr Komal Samaroo, the one on `Information Exchange' and Director of Foreign Trade in the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Industry, Ms Kim Stephens, that on `Trade'.

Pressed into saying how Guyana stood to benefit from its affiliation with MERCOSUR, Searwar, who elected to respond, said such a question was very difficult to answer at this juncture since the process was still in its exploratory and planning stages.

"But clearly the objective is to enhance Guyana's trade.. find new markets for some of our products so you will sell more," he said, envisaging increased production which he felt could come from either the new market opportunities MERCOSUR presented, or capital investments to start new businesses from entrepreneurs within the grouping.

Favero said before answering such an important question, it was necessary to see, in advance, which of the areas this kind of cooperation were more advantageous.

"This is the first exercise between Brazil and Guyana to identify these areas where there could be likely benefits," he said, noting that subsequent technical meetings will determine specific areas of trade.

He said MERCOSUR was also interested in expanding its membership to include other South American countries. Chile and Bolivia have already been accorded associate membership in MERCOSUR. Overtures have also been made to Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, on the same grounds as Guyana.

Favero said this was a new strategy being adopted by MERCOSUR, namely to go for open regionalism rather than conforming to a closed regional market.

Asked about Guyana's prospects of gaining full membership in the grouping, Favero said this depended on a number of circumstances.

Referring to the current agreement between Guyana and MERCOSUR, Favero said: "It is not a bilateral negotiation we're talking about here. We're talking about a negotiation between MERCOSUR and Guyana [of which] Brazil is in the forefront. But it [Guyana's access] will be discussed still with the other countries of MERCOSUR".