Guyana pushes regional integration fund

-at Quito FTAA talks

Stabroek News
November 15, 2002

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Guyana will continue to push for a regional integration fund to mitigate the effects on smaller economies of the proposed Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA), Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation Clement Rohee said yesterday.

Rohee was briefing the press on his attendance at the Seventh FTAA Ministerial Meeting in Quito, Ecuador. He said the meeting marked the beginning of a new phase of negotiations for the establishment of the FTAA by 2005. The FTAA involves 34 countries in the hemisphere excluding Cuba.

The proposal for the fund which was put forward by Guyana, Rohee said, was with the aim of helping smaller economies in the hemisphere derive greater benefits from the proposed FTAA and to avoid marginalisation.

The key objectives of the fund would be to strengthen and diversify the productive base of the smaller economies of the western hemisphere through the promotion and facilitation of enterprise development and private sector participation; to foster infrastructural development, including telecommunications infrastructure in these economies; to encourage human resources and technological development in the smaller economies; and to facilitate the competitiveness of the goods and services produced by the smaller economies and their access to the market of the FTAA.

Drawing on the experiences of the European Union, Rohee said that Guyana referred to the mechanisms of the EU which include the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the European Agricultural Guidance Fund and the European Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance; all of which were put in place to assist the less developed countries in Europe in order to reduce the gaps in their levels of development.

Among the key issues decided by the FTAA ministers were, that negotiations should proceed at a pace that meets the deadlines taking into account the capacity, concerns and interests of the participating countries including the differences in the levels of development and size of economies; that offers by participating countries, in respect of tariff concessions will take into account the differences in levels of development and size of economies; and to review offers of tariff concessions with a view to their improvement taking place between February 16 to June 16, 2003.

Rohee said the meeting also agreed that between 2002 and 2005 two meetings of ministers responsible for trade will take place, the first to be held in Miami during the first quarter of next year and the other in Brazil in 2004. By the next meeting of the FTAA ministers meeting, a consensus should have been reached on a revised version of the FTAA Agreement.

In addition, the Trade Negotiation Committee (TNC), the second highest forum within the FTAA process, will meet at least three times next year. These meetings will be held in Trinidad and Tobago, El Salvador and Mexico. Guyana is hoping to host one of the TNC meetings in 2004, Rohee said.

He said his ministry would encourage greater participation by civil society in the activities of the National Advisory Committee on External Negotiations (NACEN) through the establishment of a civil society working group within NACEN.

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