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Protectionism is not in Region’s interest – Finance Minister

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…says Govt firmly supports DDL, will continue engaging Caricom counterparts

Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh

On the sidelines of Friday’s sitting of the National Assembly, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, made it clear that the recent action of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) authorities in rejecting Guyanese goods are very concerning, and that protectionism and isolationism are in nobody’s interest.
In wake of the refusal of T&T authorities to admit millions of dollars’ worth of milk exports from Guyana, there has been much criticism over this flouting of regional integration. In an exclusive interview with this publication, Dr. Singh spoke about the development.
“Isolationism and protectionism are not in anybody’s interest. They’re not in Guyana’s interest, they’re not in Trinidad’s interest, they’re not in Barbados or Grenada or St. Vincent’s interest. Protectionism and isolationism are not in anybody’s interest, and we feel that strongly and firmly in Guyana. And that is why we are as committed as we are to the regional integration movement,” he said.
According to Dr. Singh, Guyana wants to be part of a more integrated Caribbean. However, there should also be more reciprocity when it comes to trade in the region. Minister Dr Singh pointed out that Guyana is not in the habit of turning away goods from other countries.

The Savannah milk products produced by DDL

“And we don’t believe that any regional authority should be turning away products recklessly or capriciously. And I’m not suggesting that is what happened in this instance, but we believe that all of our regional administrations should work to promote intra-regional trade, and dismantle phytosanitary and sanitary barriers,” he revealed.
Ultimately, Dr Singh noted, the Government continues to engage the Trinidadians on the matter; and, further, fully supports Demerara Distillers Limited.

He went on to urge other regional authorities to work with companies in the region in order to facilitate regional trade.
“We will continue. We have had good discussions with the Trinidadian authorities, and we will continue to have those discussions. DDL itself is a company that is quite capable of complying with every international standard that you can imagine, and they’re quite capable of representing themselves; but, as a Guyanese company, they have the support of the Government of Guyana, because we want all Guyanese manufacturers to be able to penetrate markets elsewhere,” he explained.
Only recently, news emerged of the return of $20 million worth of milk imports from Guyanese company Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), which were recently blocked by Trinidadian authorities from entry. According to DDL Chairman Komal Samaroo, the import of milk was blocked based on Trinidad’s Animal Disease and Importation Act 2020, while the water was restricted. He disclosed that these products have been exported to other Caricom territories with no such problems.
In a statement on Tuesday, Guyana’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry slammed Trinidad’s decision to refuse the goods, noting that the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), to which both Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana subscribe, requires free movement of goods and services under the regional integration framework.
While it acknowledged that regional products must satisfy sanitary and other rules, the Ministry also noted that the dairy products were in full compliance with those regulations. Moreover, the products were accepted in other jurisdictions.
It was pointed out that Guyana has already opened its market to regional producers, hence it is expected that products from Guyana should be guaranteed the full benefits of regional integration.
Subsequently, T&T Trade and Industry Ministry released a statement in which it claimed that there was no prohibition on the importation of animal products into Trinidad and Tobago from any Caricom member state, including Guyana. However, for these products to be exported to Trinidad and Tobago, countries must be approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MALF). This is a one-time approval associated with first-time exports, the statement said.
Further, it added that for an import permit to be issued for ‘first-time’ imports of milk from any country, a risk analysis is required to be undertaken by the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO). According to the Trinidad Government, the T&T importer of the products was informed of this requirement. (G3)

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