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UNITED States Ambassador Ronald Godard has said that there is considerable room for making this country's exports the dynamic sector for growth.
He listed as factors in this process, Guyana's significant potential for producing traditional and non-traditional commodities, and an economic destiny and future that are fundamentally and inextricably linked to exporting, and participating in international trade.
To this end, the Ambassador said, he is of the view that issues such as export promotion, export facilitation and competitiveness must urgently be addressed if Guyana is to achieve high growth rates (i.e. double digit real sustainable growth rates over a long period) that are absolutely necessary to reduce current levels of poverty.
Mr. Godard expressed these sentiments during a presentation to the seminar and discussion on `A National Trade Strategy for Guyana' at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel on Thursday.
The Ambassador, who is expected to complete his sojourn in Guyana in July, expressed his appreciation of the support he received here during his tenure. He explained that he chose to use the opportunity offered him to address the forum, to outline his vision for Guyana's growing involvement in regional trade, and indeed the world economy.
Noting that this country's small population and minimal annual growth rate limited the nation's scope for growth and expansion, Godard said such features "automatically impose a severe limitation on the size of the domestic market".
In this regard, the U.S. envoy sees facilitation, promotion and competitiveness as moving Guyana towards achieving higher growth rates, and ultimately reducing levels of poverty.
He noted: "Under the right conditions, trade is the sector where we can expect dramatic growth."
The Ambassador also stressed the need "to focus on diversification and shifting away from traditional export commodities and services toward non-traditional ones," and particularly those with greater added value - rice, sugar and bauxite with bleak-looking prospects.
Godard pointed out that the twin processes of globalisation and trade liberalisation have forced many small developing economies, including Guyana, to play a more active role in international relations, to avoid being marginalised in the international economy.
He said that Guyana has now found itself in the position where it must, for example, address a range of topics of increasing complexity during interrelated and virtually simultaneous trade negotiations.
Noting that the private and public sector entities and trade institutions have been, and still are, adjusting to the new situation so they can effectively fulfill their mandates, Godard cautioned that preparing the country to compete in the fast moving, highly competitive world of international trade is a daunting task; and certainly one that requires political will and technical assistance.
Taking into account the country's socioeconomic background, he said, it seems clear that any trade strategy will need to include the following broad elements:
1) It must outline measures available to Guyana for protecting its trading interests, as well as mechanisms for pursuing such interests.
2) It must offer ideas on how local firms can take advantage of opportunities arising from international trade agreements.
3) It must recommend mechanisms for Guyana's effective participation in international trade negotiations, particularly of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the European Union/African Caribbean Pacific Group (EU/ACP).
4) It must offer some guidance to trade officials and members of the business community on using modern information and communication technology tools in a widespread and effective manner, to access and disseminate up-to-date trade information and create reliable databases. Failure to do so will result in the country losing out on fast moving trade opportunities.
5) It should recommend that focus be placed on negotiating the elimination and reduction of market barriers facing Guyana's exports of goods and services in international fora in the light of the importance of exports, and
6) It must highlight existing domestic resource and institutional deficiencies that constrain the smooth conduct of international trade.
"Judging from what I have seen in the proposed National Trade Strategy document, all of these elements and indeed many others have been taken into account," Mr. Godard conceded.
The U.S. Ambassador touched briefly on the role the United States Government through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been playing, and could continue to play in the area of trade strategy development and export promotion.
He pointed out that the idea of a National Trade Strategy resulted from direct collaboration between the USAID and the Government of Guyana, and in particular the Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, which has a mandate as the principal government agency for formulating and advocating policy.
"We are committed to assisting the ministry to fulfill its mandate in these important areas of responsibility," Godard assured the gathering.
Besides working with the Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, the U.S. has also been assisting other ministries and agencies in building technical capacities. These are: the Ministry of Agriculture; the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry; the investment agency GO-Invest; the New Guyana Marketing Corporation, and the Guyana National Bureau of Standards.
Godard noted that the U.S. Embassy's cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, for example, has resulted in a USAID-sponsored visit to Guyana by officials of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Visiting personnel from this American agency provided technical assistance and training for the local agency. This has led to four additional crops from Guyana now being allowed to enter all American ports.
Previously, crops from this country were only permitted to enter northeastern ports of the U.S.
The Ambassador also cited U.S.-Guyana collaboration in developing local inspection standards and certification systems to internationally acceptable levels. Primarily, this collaboration involved the Guyana Bureau of Standards.
The vital role of the private sector - including small and micro sectors - the engine of growth in Guyana, was also noted
Pointing out that the U.S. economy was largely built by small businesses, Godard said the United States fully subscribes to helping such institutions build their capacities.
In concluding his presentation, the Ambassador stated: "I wish to reiterate that the United States has supported several of the initiatives and agencies outlined and we fully intend to continue doing so in the future, through the provision of moral support, financial and non-financial assistance."