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by Misha Lobban Clarke
During bilateral negotiations held between the President of Guyana, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, and the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, on the sidelines of UNCTAD XV organized in Barbados in October 2021, a decision was taken by the two leaders to chart a new paradigm in relations between their two countries.
The new paradigm, they hoped, would allow the peoples of both countries to benefit from a broader agenda of cooperation and investment, including focused discussions on how the agricultural potential of Guyana and Barbados could be utilized. to reduce food import bills as part of the overall regional food security plans. Counterpart meetings were also held at the ministerial level and between representatives of the private sector of the two countries with a view to advancing the decisions of the Heads of Government of Guyana and Barbados.
As a result of these exploratory discussions, an invitation was extended by the President of Guyana to the Prime Minister of Barbados to lead a trade delegation to Guyana to continue discussions on deepening bilateral cooperation in areas such as oil and gas, agriculture, tourism and international transport, investment, mining and quarrying, housing and professional services. The Barbados Trade Mission to Guyana – comprising a delegation led by our Prime Minister, with senior government officials and private sector representatives – was held February 13-17 on the sidelines of the International Energy Conference and Expo – Guyana where the Prime Minister of Barbados was scheduled to attend along with other heads of government and industry leaders.
As the Executive Director of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), the executive management asked me to join the private sector delegation to provide business support and facilitation to BCCI members who were doing part of the delegation accompanying Prime Minister Mottley to Guyana.
In this SRC Trading Thoughts, I share some of the accomplishments of this journey and explain why trading with our big sister continent is important to our BCCI members.
Why trade with Guyana matters BCCI formally established ties with its Chamber counterparts in Guyana and Suriname through a Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding in July 2021. This Memorandum of Understanding created a framework for the promotion of cooperation and collaboration between the three parties and encouraged opportunities for increased trade and investment between the three countries.
The rationale behind our signing of the MOU and the trade missions facilitated under it is to help Barbadian businesses seek new markets and exposure for their goods and services. Guyana, as a CSME member state and the fastest growing economy in the Western Hemisphere, represents a promising market.
Barbados has traditionally recorded a trade surplus with Guyana most years since 2015.
In 2019, Barbados’ global imports were valued at US$1,218.77 million (excluding oil imports) and exports at US$236.71 million (excluding oil exports). In terms of trade with Guyana, Barbados’ exports to the Republic State have grown from US$3.6 million in 1998 to US$29 million in 2019. Over the past five years, Barbados’ main exports to Guyana were construction cement, wheat products, printed paper, plastic bags and sweet biscuits. In 2019, around 30 companies exported products to Guyana, contributing to over US$25 million in revenue from trade. In 2020, Guyana exported US$137 million in goods to Barbados, while importing US$31 million, resulting in a trade surplus in favor of Guyana for that year.
A survey conducted by BCCI among its members in July 2021 revealed that there was some interest among its members in trading with Guyana. The responses received were limited but instructive as they revealed that some of the companies interviewed were already exporting to these markets, but that there was general interest in exploring opportunities to intensify business relationships.
Food products, asphalt and “other” were among the products exported by these respondents.
The Barbados-Guyana Trade Mission advanced the objectives of the existing Memorandum of Understanding to leverage existing trade and investment opportunities in Guyana for Barbadian businesses.
Of the twenty-eight member private sector delegation to Guyana, 10 people represented BCCI member companies from several key sectors, including tourism, mining and quarrying, renewable energy, banking and financial services, business development , retail, shipping and manufacturing.
What was won in Guyana? From BCCI’s point of view, the mission was a key element in achieving our objectives vis-à-vis our members, in particular the establishment of business-to-business (B2B) contacts in French Guiana, the acquisition of knowledge on the each ; identify partnership opportunities and detect existing barriers to trade. Prior to the mission, BCCI held extensive consultations internally and with other members of the Export Barbados and Invest Barbados delegation to ensure that the right private sector companies in Guyana were targeted ahead of the trade mission. . Consultations were also held on behalf of members of the business sector with the Guyana Private Sector Commission and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) prior to the business visit.
Advance planning was key to our success in this assignment. The mission provided BCCI and its participating member companies with a better understanding of the Guyanese market (business climate, regulations and operational frameworks), cemented existing relationships with business partners, explored other investment opportunities and defined a role for the House. in pursuit of joint venture opportunities and bilateral trade agreements between the two countries. BCCI also held special meetings with the President and CEO of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and established other key contacts that would facilitate future dialogue. Stemming from the mission, BCCI has provided ongoing facilitation and support to its members who wish to establish business partnerships with companies in Guyana. This is done with the help of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) under the Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding.
Although this is only the first, we hope that this mission will be the start of a rewarding relationship with Guyana for members of the business sector.
We are already seeing the fruits of this initial engagement in Guyana and we remain committed as a business support organization to playing a role in promoting business opportunities for the business sector in Barbados. The Prime Minister’s Office has already begun planning an inbound mission from Guyana in April 2022, when Barbados will host our Guyanese business partners and BCCI is among the private sector entities that make up the task force to plan this inbound mission. .
BCCI thanks the Prime Minister’s Office as well as Export Barbados for extending an invitation to participate in the Barbados-Guyana mission and for the continued engagement with BCCI as the government advances bilateral trade relations between the two countries .
Misha Lobban Clarke is the Executive Director of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) For more information visit our website at www.shridathramphalcentre.com