Trade is very important for Guyana. With imports and exports accounting for around 17% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the importance of trade and trade policy cannot be overemphasised.
As a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Guyana’s trade policy is underpinned by the country’s rights and obligations under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. In this regard also, Guyana’s external trade policy is widely coordinated within CARICOM, including external trade negotiations with third countries.
Coordination of Guyana’s trade policy is the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and International Cooperation.
Despite budgetary constraints and a limited number of trade staff, the Ministry has proven its capability to deal with complex trade policy matters, such as the recently concluded Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.
The Ministry leads a National Advisory Committee for External Negotiations (NACEN) which involves major public-private stakeholders and ensures their participation in trade policy matters. NACEN is chaired by the Minister.
Trade taxes are not a major source of revenue for the Government’s budget, which reflects Guyana’s commitment to an open, market-based trade regime. Internal reforms such as the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) in 2007 have helped Guyana to significantly streamline tax administration, strengthen the tax base and reduce the reliance on border taxes.
Guyana has seen strong export growth during the period under review. Expanded production of traditional and non-traditional products and favourable world market prices for key commodities are largely responsible for this performance. Imports have grown as well, and Guyana continues to have a significant trade deficit.
Some diversification of export destinations has occurred in the last five years, with increased exports to non-traditional markets, such as China. In the same way, more and more imports are sourced in new markets, notably China, India and Brazil.
Expanding exports to new markets is a key priority for Guyana.