Guyana eyes South Asia markets
Bilateral pact signed with Thailand
Stabroek News
June 23, 2002

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The Guyana Government hopes that the recently signed bilateral agreement with Thailand could open doors to the Asian markets for locally produced goods.

This was expressed by Guyana's Foreign Trade and International Communications Minister, Clement Rohee and his Thai counterpart, Dr Kantathi Suphamongkhon, during a press briefing at Le Meridien Pegasus recently.

According to Rohee, the preliminary agreement was reached in an effort to establish "[a] good working relationship between Thailand and Guyana". It is, reportedly, a combined government/private sector effort.

"We do hope it will, in the near future, be developed into a long lasting relationship," he stated. He stressed that the pact was laying the basis for a much more comprehensive bilateral trade and investment agreement between the governments of the two countries. "It is, in fact, what is called a record of discussion of the meeting," Rohee said, referring to the exchange between him and Suphamongkhon.

"Originally, we set ourselves the task of finalising a bilateral trade and investment agreement between our two countries. The text of such an agreement has to go through a certain process and it is still doing so," Rohee told reporters. According to him, the document is a good indication that Guyana and Thailand are laying the foundation to move in a progressive and constructive direction. Guyana is not the only country sought for partnership by the Asian country.

According to Suphamongkhon, who headed the ten-member delegation on the three-day visit here, Thailand is also seeking a bond with Peru, since it sees that country as the gateway to the Andean markets. The Peruvian visit will be made some time next month, the foreign trade minister disclosed. After wrapping up in Guyana on June 13, Suphamongkhon and his team would have stopped in neighbouring Suriname to "exchange views", before returning home. Then, some time in the future, Thailand plans to establish closer ties with Guyana's other neighbour, Brazil, as well as with Trinidad and Tobago.

"We from Thailand, have reached out all the way across the world, to come here to extend our hand of friendship and I am happy to report that we have received a very warm hand of friendship from the Government of Guyana and it marks a new beginning of a closer relationship between our two countries. It also emphasises the point that, in this period of globalisation, we should no longer allow distance to separate us, no matter how far," the Thai minister stated prior to a cocktail reception held to honour him and his team.

According to him, the private sectors of the two nations have a major role to play in the partnership venture, and before the evening was out, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Eddie Boyer, signed a pact to this effect with his Thai counterpart.

"We would like very much for our private sectors to ensure that the doors that we have opened today remain open. The momentum which began today must be maintained and, we call upon the members of the private sectors of Guyana and Thailand to take this opportunity to get to know one another, to visit one another and to work together for the common good and the good of our people," Suphamongkhon stated.

Asked what prompted the delegation's visit to Guyana, the Thailand Trade Representative had this to say: "We have been informed of the development in Guyana. For the last several years, [Guyana has] been moving in a very positive direction, opening [up] for partnership and foreign investment and [Guyana is] actually located strategically in such a way, that [the country] can become a gateway and a hub to the Caribbean, to Latin America and, on some occasions, also to the US. We also feel that Thailand is an appropriate country to serve as a gateway and a hub into South East Asia."

He noted that Thailand has a population of 60 million and there were 500 million-odd people in South East Asia and free-trade agreements currently being worked out between Thailand and a number of other countries. To this end, Suphamongkhon said, Guyana's partnership with Thailand would be of great benefit.

"[This] means that our markets would be large. When we have trade and investment using Thailand as the gateway into our region, the numbers could go up to two billion as a market. Something similar could be happening here and, in this part of the world, Guyana is the perfect candidate to sell itself as a very appropriate gateway to this region and beyond. So we are looking at a comprehensive friendship."

In marking Guyana for possible investment, Suphamongkhon might have been thinking as the late Frank Buchman did, "there is enough in the world for every man's need..." For sure, the Thais have identified a number of areas for potential investment here. Currently ranking as the world's largest exporter of precious stones and an "important player" in the furniture industry, Thailand's partnership with Guyana can see the former country climbing steadily and firmly further up the value chain. This move, no doubt, could be the catalyst that secures a position for the Asian country to rank among the newly-industrialised states.

With regard to the imminent Guyana venture, Suphamongkhon said: "We have entered into quite a bit of discussion here... and areas that came up, for example, fisheries. We are a major player in fisheries. Our shrimp is the number one US import... many other sectors come into mind. For example, forestry. We are also an important player in the furniture business [and] we would be very interested in working with Guyana, maybe jointly, to export furniture to our country, including the US. We see you have a lot of trees, you are covered with fertile forests... and we look forward to working with you in order to enhance the ability to go up the value chain.

"From furniture to other sectors...we would help to ensure that our products, when exported, keep on climbing up the ladder which also requires us to look at the packaging and marketing. We have seen many areas we [in which we] could complement each other. We could have similar products, but we must ensure that we are not competing against each other. The world is large and so we must have a joint strategy to win together and to maximise the potentials of this world for the benefit of our two peoples."

Suphamongkhon said other areas Thailand was interested in, include jewellery and precious stones.

"I know that you have a substantial amount of that [so] we would like to look into joint ventures there. We also export rubber and you have some other things... the sugar cane. Other products would include computer parts that we could export, automobile parts and assembling pads. Another area of utmost importance would be tourism. You are developing your tourism industry, we have a substantial experience in the tourism industry, so we would like to exchange views and experiences in that area, as well as, in the construction business."

Other members of the delegation included Krirk-Krai Jirapaet, adviser to the Prime Minister; Vichien Tejapaiboon, adviser to Thailand Trade Representative; Gritsana Changgom, senior expert to Thailand Trade Representative and Delegation Secretary; Suveera Bamroongthai, International Affairs Bureau officer, Secretariat of the Prime Minister; Montri Jiravaraphan, Suphamongkhon's assistant; and Piyawan Lekmanec, Attached to Thailand Trade Representative, all of whom fall under the Thailand Trade Office. Under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the delegation team had Suvat Chirapant, deputy director general, Department of American and Pacific Affairs; and Apha Thirakaroonwongse, third secretary, Latin America Division, Department of American and Pacific Affairs; and Piramol Charoenpao, director, Thai Trade Centre, Miami.