Ministry of Foreign Affairs to focus on improving foreign trade policy in 2017
GINA, GUYANA, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ 2017 budgetary allocation was approved during the consideration of the estimates at the Committee of Supply in the National Assembly, today.
The $5.164B will be used to:
- Develop foreign policy
- Promote foreign policy and
- Develop foreign trade policy
Establishing overseas offices
The Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira asked for missions that have not yet been equipped. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge pointed out that the Consular General position in Toronto, Canada is yet to be filled.
The Minister provided positions of Consular General or ambassador which are filled:
- Washington, USA
- New York, USA (including PR)
- Ottawa, Canada
- Beijing, China
- Brussels, Belgium
- Caracas, Venezuela
- London, England
- Havana, Cuba
- Deli, India
- Boa Vista, Brazil
- Geneva, Switzerland
- South Africa
- Trinidad and Tobago
Meanwhile, the Minster pointed out that $59M will be used to employ senior technical staff to fill the positions of consular, deputy consular generals, deputy head of mission and trade officers. The Minister was responding to questions posed by Teixeira.
The Opposition Chief Whip asked the Minister what is his policy on renting overseas offices since the allocations for this were ‘ enormous’. Minister Greenidge noted that the figure reflects the addition of two missions, Geneva and Trinidad and Tobago.
Additionally, there are new ambassadors the minister said. “We do have a policy, we try as far as possible to keep the payment for the buildings within reasonable limits,” Minister Greenidge explained. The Foreign Affairs Minister further explained that Ambassadors’ contracts usually have inflation elements or cost of living increases added in.
The Opposition Chief Whip asked the Minister to point out the benefits to Guyana, given such “major investments”. However, Minister Greenidge noted that while the figures were high, the benefit cost ratio is one that is to the country’s advantage.
An embassy in Brussels, Belgium gives Guyana the opportunity to interface with the European Union, and ACP member states which are important concessional financing and trading partners, Minister Greenidge noted.
Similarly, Guyana’s presence in Geneva not only “covers Guyana- Swiss relations” but establishes the country’s presence in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). “Guyana is the only one of the major territories that does not have up to now …a representative in the WTO,” Minister Greenidge pointed out.
Further, in Geneva the Swiss government has contributed to the rental of office and residency, Minister Greenidge pointed out. “So we’re not paying the full economic cost of the office or the residence,” the Minister said.
More regionally, having an embassy in Trinidad and Tobago conveniently allows coverage of the Easter Caribbean, as well as the political dimension because there is the “need to constantly upgrade our Caribbean colleagues as to the political development especially as they pertain to our maritime zone, and as they pertain to the problem of the controversy,” Minister Greenidge explained.
Modernising operations to improve trade
Meanwhile the Minister noted that the Ministry will undertake the modernisation of the administration which would benefit trade. There is a two- year programme to digitise the ministry’s administration and trade sections. This programme is expected to improve access to information and make processing information in a reasonable and expeditious manner.
Minister Greenidge pointed out that there has been increased capacity building to develop the country’s foreign trade policy. Last year, the Ministry recruited a Director of International Trade. The Ministry is in the process of recruiting trade technicians specifically trained in trade matters.
There has been training of Foreign Service Officers in trade and trade negotiations. The minister was replying to questions on the emphasis placed on developing trade relations by Teixeira.
By: Tiffny Rhodius