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Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Trade and International Co-operation was named to supervise CARICOM’s negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This decision was taken when CARICOM Heads met for their 13th inter-sessional meeting in Belize in February.
Early this year, the Ministry of Foreign Trade in its capacity as the National Coordinating Agency for the Guyana/ Brazil border activities - the Takutu Bridge and the Guyana/Brazil Road projects -- resumed inter-agency consultations. These discussions continued throughout the year.
The Ministry held meetings with the local business community to sensitise them on the Guyana/Brazil Partial Scope Agreement and the Guyana/China Trade Agreement. The aim of the meeting was to position the local business sector to take advantage of the trading opportunities under these agreements.
Through the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Trade, a number of meetings of the Takutu Bridge Committee were convened. Meetings were also held with residents of communities close to the Takutu Bridge and other stakeholders in the project.
This year the Ministry hosted the 12th Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development. The meeting looked at progress in the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) particularly with respect to the implementation of Protocol II, World Trade Organisation negotiations with emphasis on trade-related and intellectual property rights, CARICOM/Colombia, CARICOM/Cuba and CARICOM/Dominican Republic trade agreements.
The meeting looked at the US Trade Promotion Authority and its impact on CARICOM exports and re-exports of raw fabric.
The meeting also addressed concerns of the Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM) among other issues.
Trade relations with the European Union (EU) took up considerable attention of the Foreign Trade Ministry.
The EU sugar market absorbs the bulk of Guyana’s sugar exports (80 per cent), and efforts at protecting these preferential agreements continue to demand the attention of the Ministry. The EU is a significant contributor to grant aid to Guyana, contributing some US$20M annually.
The Cotonou Agreement, the Everything But Arms initiative and Economic Partnership Agreements continue to demand the attention of the Ministry.
On the FTAA negotiations the Ministry of Foreign Trade has been hard at work. In these negotiations, officials will have to take into account the capacity, concerns and interests of the participating countries, including the differences in the levels of development and size of economies.
Guyana has proposed the concept of a Regional Integration Fund (RIF) as a tool for helping the smaller economies in the Region to derive greater benefits from the FTAA and to avoid marginalisation.
At the level of the WTO, negotiations are continuing and Guyana as an individual nation and in conjunction with other CARICOM and ACP States, is seeking to ensure that trade rules take into account the peculiar circumstances of small nations’ economies and the need for special and differential treatment.
Conformity by the developed nations to WTO rules and regulations continue to attract the attention of the Ministry.
This year the Ministry of Foreign Trade met with a number of producers in an effort to assist these companies to take advantage of international trading markets. Confirming to international standards and cost-cutting measures were issues discussed at these meetings
During 2002, the Ministry held training courses for staff so as to better equip them to face the challenges of the changing world of trade.
The FTAA, ACP/EU and WTO negotiations will continue into the New Year. (GOVERNMENT INFORMATION AGENCY)