The Hub and Spokes Programme provides trade experts to national ministries and regional trade organisations to enhance trade capacity in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states.
It is a joint Programme of the European Union (main donor), ACP Group Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
Edmund Kalekyezi, a regional trade adviser, has been supporting the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs on trade development since 2006. Read his blog below:
Guyana, a Caribbean member state on the South American continent, has a population of approximately 800,000 people. With a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 3% (2015), the country is classified as lower-middle income, largely dependent on sugar and rice for exports. Other non-traditional exports, such as fisheries and agricultural products, are growing in importance. Gold and bauxite mining also contribute significantly to the national economy, although both products have been affected by a slump in global prices. Current imports exceed exports, resulting in a trade deficit in the country.
The services sector accounts for over 46 per cent of GDP. The tourism sector contributes significantly to the economy but remains weak in comparison with other countries in the region. The services sector is expanding, especially transport services, financial and insurance services, telecommunications, storage and warehousing. However, construction services and wholesale and retail services have slowed down over the last year.
Whilst working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Foreign Trade Department, I have been involved in advancing Guyana’s regional and multilateral trade agenda. The Ministry is the lead agency with regards to trade negotiations; implementation of trade agreements is largely undertaken by other ministries and agencies.
In advising on bilateral trade arrangements between Guyana and its trade partners, my focus has been on the Caribbean regional integration process, as well as Guyana’s participation in World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements.
Besides the regional integration process, I have also been participating in Guyana’s bilateral initiatives, which include helping to negotiate new trade agreements. These initiatives are designed to help Caribbean countries access key international markets in order to boost trade exports. The focus has been on implementation of existing bilateral agreements like the EU/CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
The EPAs, in general, aim to generate a free trade area between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states. The EU/CARIFORUM EPA is a bilateral agreement between the CARIFORUM countries and the EU – its aim is to contribute to regional integration efforts through economic co-operation, as well as boosting integration in the world economy, improving trade capacity in Caribbean countries and supporting the private sector. The latter is particularly relevant, given the high and rising cost of doing business in Guyana.
Although the five-year CARIFORUM/EU EPA review report (2008 – 2013) suggested there was limited progress on EPA implementation within the CARIFORUM countries, Guyana was among the few countries on course with their scheduled commitments, in most areas. Guyana hopes to attract foreign direct investment using the EPA, especially through trade in the services sector and tourism. The country seeks to enhance services exports to the EU, especially cultural and entertainment services - Guyana has unique products to offer in these industries. The country is also exploring options for diversifying trade by developing new products; traditionally, sugar has been the country’s chief export to the EU market.
I have participated in crafting the regional model EPA implementation legislation. Its aim is to guide CARIFORUM countries on the best way to implement EPA commitments within their respective jurisdictions. The key legislation we considered related to immigration of EU service providers who wished to offer their services in the CARIFORUM countries. We also looked at legislation dealing with telecommunications and national regulatory authorities and international maritime transport services. Another area of legislation we reviewed dealt with interconnectivity and access to facilities to afford small operators the opportunity to share high cost infrastructure that that would otherwise be unaffordable.
Other activities relating to EPA implementation included identifying Guyanese products that can be registered and protected in the EU market. We worked closely with producers to help them meet necessary requirements before accessing the EU market. It is hoped certain products will fetch top prices once they are protected in the EU market. This will boost Guyana’s export revenue, which, at present, only comes from a few products.
“The Hub and Spokes project has provided a unique opportunity for knowledge sharing and intellectual guidance on trade policy issues through South South Cooperation” – Sherwyn A.R. Naughton, First Secretary, Embassy of Guyana