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PM Briceno Comments on Belize’s PSAs being Sought with Guatemala and Mexico

As Belize is seeing millions of dollars in investments, Prime Minister John Briceno spoke on the partial scope agreements that are being sought with the neighboring countries of Guatemala and Mexico. He explained that while the agreement with Guatemala is being negotiated, the arrangement with Mexico will take a bit more discussions.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “The partial scope agreement that we are negotiating right now is with Guatemala. With Mexico, Mexico wanted a full scope free trade agreement and we don’t believe we’re there yet So what we are doing is to have a trade and investment agreement between Mexico and Belize. That negotiation have already started. Our minister of agriculture’s counterpart in Mexico have already determined and have said to their people that we need to open their markets for Belizean products because the P resident AMLO has told them that we need to open up the markets of Belize so that is an ongoing process but our farmers are excited about the prospects that is why they are investing more. When you look at for instance a new industry the coconut industry we have farmers that are planting hundreds of acres of coconuts and other products and it has to be about adding value because we have been just doing raw products but now by adding value we create more opportunities for our people that our farmers can get even a higher price and by extension to be able to create opportunities and jobs for our Belizean citizens. Look at what has happened for the very first time probably in as much as 20 years agriculture started the resurgence of our economy. They were the ones that started before tourism. In the second quarter of last year agriculture alone led the resurgence of the economy and we grew about 23%. That shows that there is a renewed commitment from our farmers but as what I was talking to some of the leaders here in Spanish Lookout they are saying we are committed because we see that there is a government that’s committed to agriculture, a minister that understands agriculture, a minister that grows and talks and breathes and lives agriculture and that is what is translating to the people in the agriculture industry. Our government is doing everything possible to open new markets. Last year in June I was in Guatemala and I met with president Giammattei about expanding the partial scope agreement we’re working on that as we speak and then in September I was in Mexico I met the president AMLO and we spoke about opening up their markets to Belize and now he’s going to be here. He’s going to be in Belize on the 6th and 7th of May. It shows that commitment that we have and that we are starting now to see the benefits of the work that we have been doing but that cannot we’ve done only by ourselves as a government we can’t claim all the credit it means also that our farmers have this renewed excitement and renewed commitment to agriculture and looking at ways to make investments and sizable investments but investments they believe will be able to pay back big dividends for them.”

As the PSAs remain to be finalized, Prime Minister Briceno says these actions and initiatives are a part of the PUP’s manifesto promises in agriculture and self-sustainability.

 Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “In Plan Belize we spoke about from farm to table basically where we’re saying we want to be able to grow more of what we eat and to eat more of what we grow but the market is small. For instance cattle is a perfect example presently we have we are producing probably as much as 35 times more than what we can consume and so we have to look beyond our borders. We have to ensure with cattle for instance we Su Karne  from Mexico by them coming in to buy the cattle the price for cattle ranchers have gone up considerably. When it was only one player the Guatemalans they used to play with the price and at one time they give you 170 pound next time they give you 120 and so it was very difficult for cattle farmers, cattle ranchers. So by opening up new markets for instance right here with Western Dairies they’re already looking at the market in Grenada and then from Grenada move to the rest of the Caribbean where we can sell our milk, our chicken, our pork, our other products. We have to be able to push our products into CARICOM. At the last meeting for the Heads of Government in San Pedro which I chaired as the temporary chair of CARICOM I was pushing to say listen we have a big market come on the CARICOM and Central America and seeking market is worth about $400 billion so if we can do more coordinating, if we can do more groups and countries that ensure that our products can get in more easier than we can produce and create so many opportunities for our people and Belize,  in Central America, and the Caribbean.”

The Partial Scope Agreement seeks to develop a formal trade system between both countries and will also entail food and plant safety, customs and trade facilitation matters as well as a review of existing agriculture quotas, tariff codes, land transportation for goods into Guatemala and payment facilitation.