29 and 31 October 2003

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

See also:
> Press release: Diversification of production and export base will be best achieved by strengthening economic reform and trade liberalization

This first Trade Policy Review of Guyana has shed considerable light on its trade and investment policies and practices. It has also led us to a far better understanding of the challenges Guyana faces and of the economic and institutional framework within which its policies are formulated and implemented, both at the national level and through participation in CARICOM. We owe this particularly to the active participation of the delegation of Guyana led by Minister Rohee.

Guyana was commended for the efforts undertaken to reform its economy since the late 1980s. Members expressed their appreciation for the efforts undertaken at the domestic level to liberalize trade, the exchange rate regime, privatize state-owned enterprises, and reform institutions. Members noted the openness of Guyana's economy, as witnessed by the fact that total trade is almost double GDP.

Members also expressed support for the steps that Guyana has taken at the international level, including the development of a National Trade Strategy and the negotiation of market-opening agreements at the multilateral, regional and bilateral levels. Guyana was encouraged to continue and accelerate the pace and scope of these domestic and international reform efforts.

Members also noted that, despite these wide-ranging reforms, Guyana continues to face difficult economic problems. The rate of economic growth in Guyana has been relatively low in recent years, the debt burden is high, and the current account deficit is large. Guyana continues to rely heavily upon exports of a narrow range of traditional products, and remains vulnerable to shifts in the level of global demand, fluctuation in prices, and the erosion of its margins of preference in access to major foreign markets. A number of Members noted that Guyana's difficulties are 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.

Members took note of the importance that Guyana attaches to its commitment to the multilateral trading system, and commended the steps it has taken to implement its WTO obligations. Members recognized the importance of Guyana's leadership role as CARICOM spokesman for WTO matters. Some Members nevertheless observed that Guyana's non-resident status in the WTO may impede its ability to participate fully in the deliberations and activities of the organization. Guyana was encouraged to participate actively in the current services negotiations.

Members noted that Guyana is dependent upon trade taxes as a source of government revenue, noting that the current efforts underway to reform the tax structure and the planned value-added tax might permit reductions in trade-related taxes. Some Members took note of the disparities between Guyana's bound and MFN applied rates, and the use of conditional duty exemptions and other forms of trade and investment incentives. Members noted that these aspects of Guyana's tariff regime tend to undermine transparency and predictability, and encouraged Guyana to undertake further reforms.

Members appreciated the notifications made by Guyana to the WTO; some encouraged Guyana to improve and complete its notifications on such subjects as state-trading enterprises, technical barriers to trade, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures. Some Members observed that Guyana's laws have not been amended yet to fully conform with the requirements of the TRIPS Agreement, and requested information on the status of the efforts to enact new legislation.

Members noted the importance of targeted technical assistance to support Guyana in its efforts to improve its participation in the multilateral trading system and to continue to work towards the achievement of its development objectives. In this respect, some Members expressed their wish to continue providing assistance to Guyana, as had been the case in the past.

In addition to the aforementioned topics, Members also sought clarification on several specific issues, including:

  • investment;

  • customs valuation and rules of origin;

  • import prohibitions, restrictions, and licensing;

  • technical regulations;

  • government procurement;

  • competition policy;

  • intellectual property right legislation;

  • electricity;

  • agriculture and mining;

  • financial and telecommunications services.

The delegation of Guyana provided written and oral answers to the questions posed during the Review and undertook to supply replies in writing to any outstanding issues. The replies provided made a considerable contribution to the review and Members clearly appreciated them.

This brings us to the conclusion of the first Review of Guyana. It has given Members a better understanding of the effort displayed and the numerous reforms undertaken by Guyana in recent years, and of the challenges that lie ahead. I welcome Guyana's conviction that trade liberalization and participation in the multilateral trading system is central to its development strategy, and hope it will find among WTO Members the technical support it needs to enhance its participation in the system and the benefits derived from this participation.