Guyana to be granted associate status in MERCUSOR

Guyana Chronicle
June 6, 1999

GUYANA is soon to be granted associate status of the Southern Common Market (MERCUSOR), breaking ground for the eventual traffic of goods and services between this country and members of the four-country grouping, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee, made the announcement Friday, pointing out that forging connections with hemispheric trading blocs will provide economic betterment for Guyana.

"This is an important development because ... we are trying to establish linkages with other trading blocs in the region and (MERCUSOR) is an extremely important market which we would like to access," Rohee said at a press conference at his Takuba Lodge, Croal Street, Georgetown headquarters.

Brazil will advocate this country's affiliation to the MERCUSOR grouping at a forthcoming two-day caucus in Rio de Janeiro later this month, Rohee said.

The Chronicle has learned that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be ratified at that meeting.

"These steps that we are taking are aimed at gradually integrating Guyana with trading blocs that already exist from which we can get tremendous advantages," the Minister said, rationalising the administration's strategy.

"... In doing so, we have to make sure that we don't rush into these bodies like a bull in a China shop. We have to take the necessary measures to ... ensure that we have the wherewithal to negotiate our entry and association with these bodies," Rohee cautioned.

The Foreign Minister is upbeat that this country will "eventually" become a full member of the body.

Guyana is also initiating contacts with Andean groups in a bid to expand its international markets for local products, Rohee said.

He also spoke of other initiatives to develop connections with Roraima and the Amazonas, two north-eastern states in Brazil.

Bonds with Manaus and Boa Vista, two communities in the aforementioned states, will play active roles in the functional cooperation between Guyana and Brazil because they share borders with Guyana, Rohee explained.

This outline was achieved during the recent four-day visit by President Janet Jagan and a team of Government and private sector officials to Brazil, he said.

Rohee said the delegation was "very satisfied" with the results of the state visit to Brazil, pointing out that two key pacts were brokered between the countries.

One abolished the requirement for diplomatic officials to hold passports to enter Guyana or Brazil.

They also agreed to quash the need for service passports.

"This is ... a limited approach to the abolition of visas for Guyanese nationals travelling to Brazil," and vice versa, Rohee explained.

He said that both countries did not want to "go the whole gamut for the total abolition of visas... because that has its own complications."

"So we thought we should restrict it mainly to diplomats, service passports and other official passports requiring visas," the Minister said.

The second covenant allows the spouses of envoys of both countries to be employed in the respective territories during the tour of duty of their mates.

He said the counterparts of many diplomats are highly skilled, and their expertise should be utilised while they reside in the neighbouring countries.

During the Guyanese leader's state visit, Brazilian officials reiterated their willingness to finance bridging the Takutu River as part of the road venture linking Amapa, Cayenne, Guyana and Boa Vista.

The President's visit has fulfilled her promise made after she became President in 1997 to visit the neighbouring territories of Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil, Rohee said.

Guyana cannot afford to pass up opportunities to establish economic and other affiliations with Brazil, a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and a `G8' state, Rohee told reporters.

"I think it is very important for us to recognise that ... we have on our borders a member of the `G8', a highly industrilised country and therefore we have to think out very carefully how we want to take advantage of our relation with Brazil."

According to him, these linkages are major elements of the country's economic diplomacy thrust.

"This is now a matter that is routine for ... our diplomatic representation" Rohee said.

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