Trade with Trinidad lopsided
Non-tariff barriers seen in many Caribbean markets
Stabroek News
February 3, 2003

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While Guyana enjoys a trade surplus with most of the Caribbean including Barbados and Jamaica, it still runs a sizeable trade deficit with Trinidad and Tobago, Foreign Affairs Minister Clement Rohee has noted.

Speaking at the recent launching of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Co-operation’s first half-yearly review of the country’s foreign trade, Rohee said that Guyana’s trade deficit with Trinidad for the first half of 2002 was US$17.7M and its largest surplus was with Jamaica in the sum of US$10.9M.

Meanwhile the half-yearly report said that countries where Guyana’s exports continue to experience varying degrees of non-tariff barriers include Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.

The report said that, in the USA, problems are encountered in exporting fresh fruits and vegetables. The USA rules state that these must be exported through New York and licences are only issued to residents. The rule continues to be a non-tariff barrier even though Miami is easier and cheaper to access than New York.

Guyanese exporters solve these problems by using the Guyana embassy in New York as their address.

Among the non-tariff barriers Guyana experiences with Trinidad and Tobago is documentation. Agents are required to have cleared commercial documents at least two to three weeks in advance of a shipment arriving.

The report also noted that the Guyana National Bureau of Standards reported that in October 2001, a shipment of mosquito coils was not accepted by Trinidad and Tobago for failure to comply with standards but extra-regional imports, similar to Guyana’s, were accepted.

The establishment of a Guyana/Trinidad and Tobago Bilateral Commission has not led to the completion of a protocol between the two countries. In addition, the Plant Health Unit complained of bureaucratic snags and delays; repeated requests for information previously supplied; unnecessary information being sought on pests which already exist in the twin-island republic.

The report noted that the difficulty in resolving a CARICOM standard for rice and having it accepted by all member states has resulted in Guyana not exporting rice to Trinidad and Tobago.

It pointed out, too, that 76% of Guyana’s exports were raw materials and commodities, continuing the legacy of price takers on the global market while simultaneously the preferential and world market prices for traditional exports continued to decline.

In Antigua and Barbuda the non-tariff barriers are in the areas of price controls on a number of products such as vegetables, fruits - fresh, frozen or chilled; automatic licensing and monopolistic measures taken on tomatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots and sweet pepper.

Other non-tariff areas were an environmental levy in Barbados along with administrative price-fixing on sugar, edible oil and rice and countervailing duties. In Belize it was customs charges on preservatives and wooden furniture. There is also a prohibition on water. Administrative price-fixing was also noted in Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts-Nevis and St Lucia.

Non-automatic licensing on certain products, mainly margarine, coconut oil, furniture made of wood, preservatives, malts and beverages are considered non-tariff barriers to Grenada, Montserrat and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

With Suriname the non-tariff barriers include a 0.5% statistics fee of CIF value on all products; a 1.5% consent fee of CIF value on all products; automatic licences for fish and prawns; non-automatic licensing on coconut in all forms; and quotas for sensitive product categories such as refrigerators, freezers and other refrigerating or freezing equipment.

Guyana has trade agreements with Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, Canada and the Dominican Republic through CARICOM and bilateral trading agreements with China, Brazil, Thailand, Argentina and Jordan. Through the enhanced Caribbean Basin Initiative certain of Guyana’s commodities enjoy duty-free access to the USA.

As a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping, Guyana also enjoys trading arrangements with the European Union under the Cotonou agreement.

Commenting on the publication, Rohee said it was hoped that the publication would in the longer term serve the purpose of providing timely and updated information to policy makers, researchers and businessmen who could influence trade flows between Guyana and the rest of CARICOM and the world as a whole.

The immediate objective was to provide for enhanced comprehension of Guyana’s trade flows, their implications as well as trade with the country’s major trading partners.

Rohee said that a survey of major export categories from 1990 to 2002 indicated that improvements were registered in the exports of non-traditional products such as shrimp, timber, diamonds, garments and furniture. According to Rohee, there has been a growth from 9% of total exports in 1997 to 12% in 2002 for this category.

Sugar, rice and gold, he said, showed some improvements towards the mid-1990s but in recent years export earnings in these commodities had declined.

Some key internal and external factors inhibiting exports, Rohee said include the high cost of production, including inputs, freight and human resources; sustaining the quality of the product; the challenge to supply the external market on time; inadequate new information on new products and market segments; no external marketing agency; declining external prices including competition from other suppliers; declining quotas; and subsidies to competitors.

In addition, he said that port facilities, centred around Georgetown were not equipped to deal with huge bulk-cargo and continue to be a factor in the cost of the final export.

Incentives, both fiscal and monetary, including loans, were factors to be considered if the country’s exports are to be brought up to international standard and competitiveness. (Miranda La Rose)

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