Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce Virtual Conference on Exporting
“Exporting to the U.S. from Guyana: How to Access the U.S. Market” – October 29
[SOUTH FLORIDA] – Opening Remarks by Nan Fife, Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs, US Department of State to formally declare open on Thursday morning the conference/ webinar on ‘ Accessing the U.S. Market: How to Export from Guyana to the U.S.’ put-on by the Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce.
Thank you, Mr. Kirton, for inviting me to join you today. It is an honor to speak before the Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce.
As the Director of the State Department’s Caribbean Affairs office, I want to highlight what the U.S. government is doing to enhance our trade and investment relationship with Guyana.
As economic opportunities grow in Guyana, the opportunities to partner with American firms and grow commercial ties with the United States will also increase since trade and investment is obviously a two-way street.
First I’d like to extend Youman Nabi greetings to our Muslim participants and pray for a fruitful and healthy year to come.
The United States and Guyana are building today’s relationship on the basis of cultural, historic, and commercial ties that go back before Guyana’s independence in 1966. I understand there are about 450,000 people of Guyanese descent living in the United States. The United States is Guyana’s largest trade partner, with two- way trade exceeding $600 million in 2018.
Although it has been nearly three months since the election process concluded in Guyana, let me offer my congratulations to the Guyanese people for their patience and resolve during that period.
Despite some challenges, the people of Guyana voted and their voices were heard. We look forward to working with the government of President Ali and hope to expand on our historic, cultural, and trade and investment ties.
Having a democratically elected government that represents the will of the people is important to the United States and is a key reason why Secretary of State Pompeo decided to visit Guyana in September.
As Secretary Pompeo said, “the United States is ready to be your partner of choice as you face big decisions moving forward, especially on energy and future prosperity in your country.”
The Secretary’s travel meant a couple of busy weeks in my office preparing for the visit.
As you are likely aware, one success of that visit was the signature on September 18 of the Growth in the Americas Memorandum of Understanding to expand our cooperation on energy and other infrastructure. I want to spend a moment on what the Memorandum of Understanding strives to establish, as it outlines the type of relationship we seek to foster when it comes to trade and investment.
The Growth in the Americas initiative is a whole-of-government partnership aimed at fostering U.S. private-sector investment in physical infrastructure, the energy sector, and the digital economy throughout the Western Hemisphere. The United States has now signed 12 bilateral Memoranda of Understanding in the Latin American and Caribbean region, including with Guyana and most recently the Dominican Republic.
The Memorandum of Understanding with Guyana serves to expand our collaboration to help bolster infrastructure, including identifying the barriers to such investment. It underscores our commitment to a transparent and attractive investment climate. It will serve as a platform for the infrastructure and energy plans of President Ali.
Under the Growth in the Americas framework, we will also increase cooperation on environmental issues, such as potential oil spill responses.
I want to highlight that the Memorandum of Understanding is a framework, but not the culmination of an investment strategy. Signing it was just the first step. It is now incumbent on all of us, including the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, the Government of Guyana, private enterprise, and organizations such as the Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce, to make sure that we build upon this framework day-to-day.
To do this, the business climate must be transparent and competitive, and regulatory and procurement structures should maintain international norms. We should take advantage of information sharing opportunities. We must remain proactively engaged to foster bilateral trade and investment.
To this end, my colleagues in the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, the State Department and other U.S. government agencies are focusing on the content and participants of the first working group.
There is a reason that I have spent this much time reviewing the principals of the Growth in the Americas Memorandum of Understanding. It aligns almost perfectly with many points in the Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce Mission Statement. For example, the first point in the mission statement is to generate “new business and market access for our members,” which is also the driver behind the Memorandum of Understanding. The Chamber of Commerce calls for favorable policies and legislation, just as the Memorandum of Understanding does. The Chamber has a call to share information and knowledge in a timely manner, and the Memorandum of Understanding calls for information sharing. We can go through it point-by-point, but I think we all understand that as traders and investors, all sides are looking for fair, transparent, and reliable regulations and opportunities. In short, the Growth in the Americas initiative and the Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce are already aligned.
Along with the Growth in the Americas Memorandum of Understanding, we have committed through the U.S. Agency for International Development to support locally led development activities through programs focused on good governance.
The goal is to improve citizens’ involvement in the economic development process. Importantly, this will focus on transparent use of resources and accountability by those involved.
Additionally, Guyana is a participating country in the Caribbean Energy Procurement Assistance Program, which is part of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency’s Global Procurement Initiative. This program focuses on assisting nations to integrate best value determinations in public procurement in the energy sector to achieve high-quality, sustainable infrastructure.
Once again, the idea of transparency and implementing best practices to achieve economic growth is something that the U.S. government shares with this Chamber.
Following Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Guyana, a U.S. government delegation led by Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, or DFC, visited Guyana on October 13.
This delegation discussed investment opportunities and security cooperation in the region, as well as highlighted the U.S. government’s Growth in the Americas initiative. Chairman Boehler was joined by U.S. Treasury Assistant Secretary Mitchell Silk and others from the Departments of State and Homeland Security, the U.S. Export Import Bank, and the National Security Council.
The DFC-led delegation discussed support for private sector led investment in infrastructure, energy, technology, and women’s economic empowerment. The DFC’s current portfolio in the Caribbean includes more than $489 million invested across projects ranging from small business lending, power generation, agriculture, and low-income mortgage lending.
I now want to turn to agreements we have in place to enhance trade opportunities.
The first is the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, known as CBTPA, which the U.S. Congress just extended to 2030. Since 2000, CBTPA has been providing preferential access to U.S. markets. This has given many businesses in the Caribbean a leg up and helped them create jobs in their local communities. So far, the majority of CBTPA importations are hydrocarbons and textiles, but there are almost 270 non-textile tariff items eligible. This is a powerful tool for the region to expand into new sectors and diversify its economies. Furthermore, all goods that are the product of a CBTPA beneficiary country are eligible for the Merchandise Processing Fee exemption, regardless of whether CBTPA preference is claimed.
In addition, Guyana benefits from the Generalized System of Preferences, or GSP, a U.S. government program that eliminates duties on specific products from designated beneficiary countries.
Before concluding, I must also acknowledge the hardships that the current pandemic has placed on our people and economies, and those around the world. Guyana has the good fortune of having offshore oil fields coming online as the pandemic is taking its toll around the world, which will hopefully mitigate the economic impact.
The United States wants to remain Guyana’s number-one trade partner, and American businesses want to expand their operations in Guyana. One key element in the decision process of U.S. firms is to know that regulations and laws are fair and clear so there will be a level playing field. Transparency and reliable regulations will help enable continued growth when the pandemic finally ebbs. As Guyana’s economy grows and U.S. investors are attracted to Guyana, opportunities for Guyanese firms will also grow.
Strong economic ties benefit both of our nations. So let me wish you the best of luck in your efforts to build a stronger trade and investment relationship between our two countries. Thank you for your time and attention.