WTO review commends Guyana's reforms
-but still too dependent on commodities
Stabroek News
November 13, 2003

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Guyana should be commended for efforts to reform its economy since the late 1980's but it remains too dependent on commodity exports, says Irish Ambassador, Mary Whelan, chairperson of a team which conducted a Trade Policy Review (TPR) of Guyana for the World Trade Organisation.

Plaudits were due for Guyana's efforts at the domestic level to liberalise trade, the exchange rate regime, privatise state-owned enterprises and reform institutions.

Whelan, in a written statement, said the review team expressed support for steps Guyana had taken at the international level, including the development of a national trade strategy. But she also noted that despite wide-ranging reforms, Guyana continued to rely heavily on exports of a narrow range of traditional products, and remained vulnerable to shifts in the level of global demand, fluctuation in prices, and the erosion of its margins of preferences in access to major foreign markets.

Some members of the team noted that Guyana's difficulties were also felt by other small, export-dependent developing countries, and expressed the view that the current round of multilateral trade negotiations must address their shared concerns regarding dependency on tariff revenue, preferential market access, and the special problems of small economies.

The review team recognised Guyana's leadership role as Caricom spokesman for WTO matters but some members of the team observed that Guyana's non-resident status in the WTO might impede its ability to participate fully in the deliberations and activities of the organisation. The trade policy review is Guyana's first. With the exception of Suriname and Belize other Caricom states have had reviews.

In an overview of the TPR, Minister of Foreign Trade and International Co-operation Clement Rohee at a press briefing held on Friday said that for small developing countries like Guyana, the TPRs were useful for highlighting the difficulties faced in implementing the various WTO agreements and the need for technical assistance to meet such obligations.

Rohee said that in his opening statement at the final review session held in Geneva from October 29 to October 31, he had articulated a case for Guyana, a Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) country, to be accorded benefits and trade concessions no less favourable than those extended to the Least Developed Countries category (LDC).

He said that while there was no initiative in the WTO that would extend special treatment to HIPC members, the Guyana government remained strongly convinced that, in extending its support for greater liberalisation in small developing economies and in its drive for policy coherence, the international trading community should extend without delay LDC- parity status to HIPC countries.

Accompanying Rohee to the talks in Geneva were Neville Totaram of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and budget consultant, Winston Jordan. Attending the review sessions were representatives of Caricom States with missions in Geneva, Cuba and Guyana's main trading partners and donors, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, India, Japan and the USA.

For Guyana, Rohee said that the main contribution, the TPR process could make was to offer a basis for providing concrete trade-related technical assistance.

In this regard the WTO TPRs were organised with a view to `mainstreaming trade' in the overall development process and to link it with poverty reduction and the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

He said that TPRs might also help to build confidence among investors as the process was viewed as a commitment to trade reforms and an act of transparency by the country.