Foreign ministers support division of portfolio

Stabroek News
December 22, 2002

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Ministers Clement Rohee and Rudolph Insanally both support the continued division of the portfolio in the Foreign Affairs sector.

They commented on the issue at separate press briefings on Friday. Minister Rohee, with responsibility for Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, said because of the division there is a more focused agenda for trade negotiations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Insanally, at another press briefing, said there was now a clear demarcation of the areas of responsibility. He went on to say that so much happens in diplomacy and agendas have become so extensive that it would be difficult for one minister to cover everything. He told the gathering that the economic and political subdivisions of foreign affairs have to work in tandem. "There is need for two ministers to handle the volume of work."

In giving a review of his ministry's activities for the year, Minister Rohee said Guyana, in the person of the Minister of Foreign Trade, was designated the region's Ministerial Spokesperson on World Trade Organisation matters. This came as a result of a decision by CARICOM Heads of Government on the appointment of a Ministerial Lead Spokesperson for the region in the key trade theatres.

Following this decision the Government of Guyana accredited its embassy in Brussels as Guyana's Non- resident Mission to the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland. Rohee said, "It was a strategic move, bearing in mind the need to co-ordinate our participation in both the Geneva process at the WTO and the ACP-EU Negotiations which were recently launched in Brussels." He did however indicate his interest in having a permanent mission in Geneva.

In November Rohee represented Guyana at the WTO Consultation which was requested by Brazil and Australia with regard to their challenge to the European Union Sugar Regime. Guyana, being an ACP sugar-exporting country, benefits significantly from preferential access for sugar in the European market. Some ACP sugar exporting states, including Guyana have requested third-party status to the consultations. The WTO has scheduled a review of Guyana's trade policies, in keeping with its mandate to review the trade policies of its members. The review is expected to conclude in October 2003. The Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Co-operation is the focal point in Guyana for the conduct of the review.

Rohee said Guyana has been participating actively in the Free Trade Association of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations from the inception in 1995 and continues to do so within the framework of CARICOM's joint approach to the external negotiations. The FTAA process is scheduled to conclude at the end of 2004. He said Guyana is actively represented in the Negotiating Groups on Market Access (NGMA) and the Negotiating Group on Agriculture (NGAG), the Consultative Group on Smaller Economies (CGSE) and the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC). Guyana has been calling for the establishment of a Regional Integration Fund (RIF) that would help the Ministry to effectively respond to the adjustment challenges that would face smaller economies in the implementation of the FTAA and the adjustment to the hemispheric trade liberalisation.

Rohee indicated that the ACP-EU Negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) were launched on September 27, 2002 in Brussels. The negotiations will be concluded in two phases with the first phase lasting for approximately one year during 2002-2003, the minister further outlined. The second phase is expected to conclude before December 2007. The Guyana Government implemented the revised Caricom/Colombia Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement following the approval and passing of legislation in early May. Cabinet in August approved Guyana's participation in the Caricom/Cuba Trade Agreement which is now being implemented by the Customs and Trade Administration.

In August a business seminar was jointly hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and the Brazilian Embassy. This seminar focused on bilateral trade and investment possibilities between Guyana and Brazil.

Minister Rohee said his Ministry has taken the decision along with most small members of the WTO on the issue of generic drugs to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases. A decision taken at the 4th WTO Ministerial Meeting in Doha, Qatar in November last year would have allowed small countries to cheaply produce their own drugs to fight diseases.

The Bush administration has taken a tough stance in favour of large pharmaceutical companies thus preventing the small countries from making life-saving drugs, Rohee noted, saying, "We are not happy with the decision taken by the United States." He said that hopefully 2003 would produce favourable results in this regard.

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