Geneva, Switzerland -- Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Peter F. Allgeier gave the following statement on behalf of the United States on the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Policy Review of Guyana.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
On behalf of the U.S. Government, I would like to welcome Minister of Labor Nadir and his delegation, including Ambassador Gomes, to Guyana's second Trade Policy Review. I would like to commend Minister Nadir for his opening statement, and for the documents that his government provided for this review, including the responses to our advance questions that we have just received. As always, we thank the WTO Secretariat for preparing us for this TPR, and for its comprehensive and informative report. The United States is also grateful to Ambassador Harris for acting as discussant for this review of Guyana's trade policy.
My Government considers Guyana to be a valued hemispheric partner. Since 2001, the United States and 15 countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have worked together on the "Third Border Initiative." The "Initiative" provides a framework for structuring our engagement across the broad spectrum of matters that affect the prosperity and well being of the region.
As Guyana's number one trading partner, the United States' commercial relationship with that country remains vibrant and growing. Our total two-way goods trade during 2008 increased by nearly 40 percent from 2007. Though trade between our countries was down 3% in the first four months of 2009 (compared to 2008) we are hopeful that as the global economy recovers, our trading relationship will continue to expand. Approximately 15 percent of total imports from Guyana enter the United States duty free under the Caribbean Basin Initiative. We would encourage Guyana to take full advantage of this program by increasing its utilization rate to the greatest extent possible, and we're happy to work with you toward that objective.
We are pleased by the Secretariat's judgment that Guyana's economic performance has improved since its last Review in 2003, particularly as a result of the government's significant reform efforts in various areas. Nonetheless, although Guyana has taken measures to improve the country's business environment, challenges remain. In 2008, Guyana ranked 105th out of 181 economies analyzed in the World Bank's ease of doing business index. Further reforms are needed to promote investment, which the government views as critical to the country's economic development. The Secretariat says that such reforms "should include the expansion of the country's economic infrastructure ...as well as the further strengthening of governance and the regulatory environment." We agree that such improvements could well serve Guyana's trade and investment objectives.
We had hoped that the government would have made greater strides in implementing its WTO commitments since the 2003 TPR. The United States appreciates that Guyana's non-resident status makes its participation in the WTO more challenging. We also understand that aid for trade is a governmental priority that would help Guyana's efforts not only to diversify its economy but also its efforts to improve its implementation of its WTO commitments. The Secretariat's report states that Guyana's major reform of its taxation system represents one of the most significant developments during the period under review. We are curious as to how the 16% value added tax (VAT) that was introduced in 2007 is being applied in light of Guyana's WTO obligations. According to the report, some locally produced goods, but not the equivalent imported products, are zero-rated under the VAT. In addition, the environmental tax levied on non-returnable beverage containers is levied on imports only. A basic tenet of WTO membership is national treatment. We would welcome Guyana's explanation as to how these taxes are applied in a manner that is compatible with this core WTO principle.
Transparency, another core WTO tenet, needs much attention. Greater transparency in Guyana's SPS regime would, as the Secretariat observes, benefit both Guyana and its trading partners. But Guyana has not notified any SPS measures to the WTO. Most SPS measures, the Secretariat observes, are contained in the implementing regulations of relevant acts, "which are largely inaccessible." Furthermore, many SPS measures pre-date the creation of the WTO and have not been revised to reflect Guyana's obligations as a WTO Member. Moreover, there is no procedure for removing measures that are no longer relevant.
If we look at Guyana's customs procedures, the Secretariat says that Guyana has not submitted its legislation under Article 22 of the Customs Valuation Agreement, nor has it replied to the Checklist of Issues.
Similarly, greater transparency in the area of technical barriers to trade would be of mutual benefit both to Guyana and to its trading partners. We commend Guyana for notifying the 20 technical regulations in force. This notification represents a marked improvement from Guyana's previous Review, but we understand that some particularly important notifications have yet to be made-notably its measures to implement the TBT Agreement and its enquiry point.
Furthermore, as Ambassador Harris pointed out, Guyana has not submitted any notifications regarding state trading enterprises within the meaning of Article XVII of the GATT 1994. Meanwhile, two state-owned companies have exclusive rights to import and export sugar and gold, respectively.
In Guyana's 2003 TPR, the United States questioned the government's automatic and non-automatic licensing requirements. We are disappointed to learn that Guyana's last notification of its replies to the questionnaire on import licensing procedures was in 2003. At the time of Guyana's previous Review, the licensing system was being reviewed and this was expected to result in the elimination of a number of products from the list. However, the Secretariat reports, no changes were made.
Turning to intellectual property rights, a key issue for Guyana's economic development, most of Guyana's intellectual property laws date back to the colonial period. During the review period, legislative reform has been limited. While it appears that a new law on geographical indications was adopted in 2005, this law has not yet been notified to the WTO.
The United States will continue to work with Guyana and the other CARICOM members to strengthen and deepen our relationship. We look forward to working with Guyana and other CARICOM members to achieve a balanced and ambitious result in the Doha negotiations with meaningful new market access for all. Such a result could further enhance opportunities for Guyana to broaden its exports and its export markets. The United States looks forward to working with Guyana toward bringing the round to a successful conclusion, and we wish you a successful TPR.