Officials from the Ministry of Trade and Investment in Guatemala are in Belize for a two day conference with their Belizean counterpart to discuss ways to improve the trade relations between the two countries. An official opening was held this morning at the Ramada Princess Hotel where we spoke with the Head of the Belize Delegation and Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Trade and Investment, Mike Singh.
“This event today is the annual meeting of what is called the administrative commission and the administrative commission is a bi-national commission set up between the two ministries of trade in Belize and Guatemala and the intent is to give life to the PSA and to find where there PSA is not working and how we can take administrative measures to improve those issues. Along with that this is a also the five year anniversary of the partial scope agreement and at the five year anniversary we have an option to update the agreement and expand it to new items on the list and to look at areas where we can make it better so that we can improve trade. It’s a two day discussion and we are looking at administrative issues and see where we need to strengthen those issues and also to enable some committees that are going to be bi-national committees to work on those administrative issues that need to be fixed.”
Love News also spoke with the Vice Minister of Guatemala’s Economy and Commerce in Guatemala, Maria Luisa Flores Villagran. She spoke to us on the benefits that Guatemala sees through this agreement as well as some of the challenges faced.
“Well it had mixed results. I think early on we had better uptake by the Belizean producers to expand production for our Guatemalan markets and that’s still ongoing but what has happened is that we are finding that administrative road blocks particularly on the Guatemalan side has been hindering our ability to expand our exports, not to say that the exports are not expanding because they are still in formal trade that actually has expanded more than the formal trade which tells us that we do need to look at administrative issues so that is the reason we are doing this today.”
While there are undoubtedly benefits to both countries via this cooperation between Belize and Guatemala, there are challenges as well which the delegations will be discussing over the next two days. Singh and Dr Leroy Almendarez, the Directorate of Foreign Trade spoke of what some of those challenges are.
Well some of the issues will be in the formative discussions and therefore we don’t want to preempt the discussion because they still have to be discussed. At the end of the two days we will stil have a press brief and so the outcomes of these two days will be discussed and we will be open to questions but one of the things that we have to bring resolution to is the whole idea of transfer payments. In other words products coming in and products going out there must be some mechanism to facilitate the movement of currency and that is one of the bigger challenges that need resolution and so that one might not be resolved after those two days but we hope that by engaging, even our central bank that there could be a possible resolution to it but whatever technical barriers exists, financial barriers, those are ones that you want to bring resolution to, nontechnical barriers would be how long products stay at the border in terms of the procedures that they have to comply with sometimes technical and non-technical those are the kinds of things that affect trade and so trade facilitation issues are issues that always have to be addressed but as I said after these two days we will have a much better idea because they will be signature by both countries to whatever is agreed to.
According to CEO Singh, following this meeting of the commission, there may be some fine tuning of the partial scope agreement between the two countries. The conference continues today and tomorrow after which the media will be briefed on the resolutions.