Guyana now closer to Latin America
--says Minister Rohee

by Robert Bazil
Guyana Chronicle
July 20, 1999

FOREIGN Minister, Mr. Clement Rohee says that Guyana is now closer to Latin America, politically and otherwise, but noted that this does not mean that it is changing alliances.

"We will remain deeply embedded in the CARICOM mainstream," he assured.

Rohee told a press conference in Georgetown Friday that because of Guyana's participation in the European Union/MERCOSUR summit: "We now have more friends on the continent...we now know them better, and they know us better as well."

He added that in the light of increasing trade liberalisation and globalisation, Guyana has to build bridges with Latin America.

The Minister maintained that this is all part and parcel of a total strategy to reach out to Latin America so that Guyana can be more inserted in the mainstream of politics and development on the South America continent.

Guyana had the responsibility as the CARICOM representative on the Rio Group, to coordinate the region's participation in this meeting with respect to the political input.

Stating that Guyana fulfilled this responsibility well at the EU/MERCOSUR summit, Minister Rohee said there were no major fall-outs or criticisms as to how the country performed.

Guyana also signed a memorandum of understanding with MERCOSUR, which is also part of the strategy to draw this country closer to Latin America, and is a kind of associate membership of that grouping.

The MOU represents a commitment on both sides and after the document is perused by Cabinet it will be released to the public.

He also disclosed that Guyana is in the process of developing links with the Andean Group and the Secretary General of that community is expected here in August.

Guyana is also expecting the Director General of the Latin American Association for Development and Integration (ALADI) group shortly.

He spoke of the adoption of two documents - the Declaration of Rio and the Priorities of Action, which will also be distributed to the public some time in the future.

"Arising out of these meetings, we in Guyana have to determine in what way we can take advantage of what is described as the strategic partnership between the EU/Latin America and the Caribbean," he said.

Stating that the Caribbean has to examine the strategic partnership in the context of relations with Europe, Rohee pointed out that CARICOM is currently in negotiations with the EU with a view to establishing new relations after the LOME Convention has expired.

Emphasising that there are plans to develop a follow-up mechanism, he said that having met, deliberated and identified areas of cooperation, CARICOM and the EU did not settle what should be the mechanism for taking the process forward.

"Guyana intends to be part of that mechanism and expects other CARICOM countries will be free to do so, as well," he told reporters.

Asked if any visits are planned this year to MERCOSUR at the bilateral level, Rohee declared: "As I see it, we have two options, marginalisation or absorption."

He felt that the way Guyana should go is not to end up being marginalised, which will only spell disaster for Guyana; so it has to participate in the process of globalisation.

Rohee stated that Guyana has to manage its own participation in the globalisation process.

The Minister said that at the moment, Belize is negotiating a free trade arrangement with Mexico, Guyana is now entering into an MOU with MERCOSUR Trinidad and Tobago is about to negotiate a free trade agreement with Mexico and CARICOM has a free trade agreement with Colombia.

He stressed that CARICOM wants to negotiate a free trade agreement with Central America and is currently negotiating a similar deal with the Dominican Republic.

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