The Bharrat Jagdeo administration has backed down from a plan to seek an extension of a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) facility to import cement from extra regional sources, an official has confirmed.
Government had earlier stated plans to place an extension of the waiver on the 15 per cent Common External Tariff (CET) on extra-regional cement before the Council for Trade and Economic Development meeting which opened here Thursday, but an official indicated a change in plan.
"No decision was taken that’s all I can say," Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Henry Jeffrey told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
Last week Commerce Minister, Manniram Prashad told reporters here that the government had taken a decision to extend the CET waiver, which ended last month.
However, adviser on the Single Market and Economy at the Georgetown-based CARICOM Secretariat Desiree Field-Ridley subsequently told the media that they did not have any application for an extension of the CET waiver on cement from Guyana.
Guyana had applied for the CET waiver on extra-regional imports of cement back in 2004 when Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) was unable to meet local demand creating scarcity and high prices. But since TCL established a 10,000 dollars bagging plant in Georgetown, the Trinidadian company has been pressing the Guyana government to remove the waiver, arguing that it could supply the local market by importing bulk cement from its Barbados cement production plant, Arawak Cement Plant, to Guyana.
Meanwhile, to coincide with the opening of the COTED meeting, the TCL Group in full page newspaper advertisements said that under the rules of the CARICOM Treaty, the Common External Tariff on imports of cement into Guyana should be introduced given that TCL has the capacity to satisfy the demand for cement here.
TCL said that its plant here has the capacity to bag 30,000 tonnes per month which could easily satisfy a demand of 12,000 or 17,000 tonnes per month.
Further, the company said that it is committed to quality in every aspect of its operation, noting that TCL’s cement actually exceeds the standard for cement in all major Caribbean Community (CARICOM) markets including Guyana.
In the area of price stability, TCL has argued that the positive impact on price that results from its presence in the market could be noted.
It pointed out that between 1997 and 2004 cement prices were relatively stable and the dramatic increase in prices only occurred when the CET was removed in 2004.
Noting that their position on cement is no different from Guyana’s position on rice imports into Jamaica, TCL said their arguments were based on Article 83 of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which sets out the three conditions under which an alteration or suspension of the CET can occur - if the product is not being produced in the region; if the quality below set standards; and if supply is insufficient.