Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo announced at his weekly press conference today that his government will adopt a stringent stance of full reciprocity in its trade relations with Trinidad and Tobago and other CARICOM nations. This decision follows the recent rejection of two containers with Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) milk products by Trinidadian authorities, citing phytosanitary concerns.

“This is not a new issue,” Jagdeo said, emphasizing that Guyana has consistently championed the reduction of trade barriers within the Caribbean Community. He reiterated that such barriers hinder the economic integration and growth that the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas aims to achieve.

“We’ve always been in the forefront of the fight for the reduction of trade barriers in our region. We believe it’s essential to the promotion of wealth and the growth of trade across CARICOM,” Jagdeo stated.

Phytosanitary measures, which are intended to protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, or contaminants, have long been a point of contention in regional trade. While these measures are legitimate under international trade laws, Jagdeo pointed out that they should not be misused to obstruct trade unfairly.

“We have had a long-standing, stable position that phytosanitary restrictions must not be used to supplant tariffs or, in this case, because it’s a free trade area, so there wouldn’t be tariffs, but they must not be used to stymie the flow of goods and services across our region,” he asserted.

Addressing the specific incident with Trinidad and Tobago, Jagdeo underscored that Guyana will now enforce a policy of full reciprocity in its trade practices. This means that Guyana will treat Trinidadian goods and those from all other member states entering its market ,the same way they treats Guyanese goods.

“We have had issues with Trinidad and Tobago before. So let me say going forward, that we will insist upon full reciprocity in matters of trade. That the way our goods and our exports are treated across the region. But in this particular case, in Trinidad and Tobago, the same way their goods entering into the Guyanese market would be treated,” he declared.

Jagdeo made it clear that if Trinidad and Tobago insists on conducting phytosanitary tests on Guyanese goods, Guyana will reciprocate by implementing similar measures for Trinidadian goods. This approach, he hopes, will lead to fairer treatment of Guyanese exports.

Despite the firm stance, Jagdeo was careful to highlight the positive trade relations between the two nations. He expressed a desire to maintain the longstanding, healthy trade relationship with Trinidad and Tobago, emphasizing that the move towards reciprocity should not be seen as an act of hostility.

“I’m trying to be a bit careful here because we do not want—we have a great relationship with Trinidad and Tobago. We have had a long-standing healthy trade relationship and we don’t want to sound jingoistic or as we’re calling for a fight. All we want is that our exports, our goods, be treated fairly in their market as their goods are treated here,” he concluded.

The recent denial of the two containers of packaged milk products from Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) was met with grave concerns by the Government of Guyana and private sector.

This incident has particularly sparked significant unease within the GMSA, which noted the principles outlined in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which mandates the free movement of goods and services among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states. The GMSA in a statement yesterday highlighted the contradiction between these principles and the actions taken by Trinidad and Tobago.

It emphasized the importance of regional cooperation, especially in the context of the collective commitment by CARICOM Heads of Government to work towards food security and reduce the regional food importation bill by 25% by the year 2025. “Actions similar to those taken by Trinidad and Tobago against DDL are inimical to the achievement of these objectives,” the GMSA noted.


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