Guyanese Diplomacy Advances International Strategic Objectives
rom nearby Brasília to faraway Beijing, Guyanese diplomats are working hard to cultivate bilateral relationships they hope will generate economic cooperation in the form of foreign investments. So far, that strategy appears to be paying off.
And the fact that Georgetown happens to be the headquarters of the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) gives Guyana far more clout than its relatively small population of 750,000 might suggest. Guyana, in fact, is the only English-speaking country in South America and shares cultural and historical bonds with the Anglophone Caribbean. But its diplomatic outreach is global. “Even though the United States remains our largest trading partner — and the place with our largest Diaspora population — we are looking at relations with other countries, particularly with emerging economies,” Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett said in a recent interview at her Georgetown office. At the top of that list is Canada, a critical source of direct foreign investment that is home to more than 200,000 people of Guyanese origin — principally in the Toronto area. “We have a long history of trade with Guyana, going back hundreds of years,” said David Devine, Canada’s high commissioner in Georgetown. “We try to focus on where we have the best competitive advantage, certainly in the mining sector. We have limited resources, so we want to be strategic about it. So we work with the government and the private sector on international standards, making sure they are as open, transparent and effective as possible.” Devine said 32 Canadian companies are involved in Guyana’s extractive sector, all of them trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Three or four “have made significant enough discoveries to move to the feasibility or even the development stage,” Devine said, though he noted that no active Canadian large-
Photo: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS
Guyanese President Donald Rabindranauth Ramotar addresses officials and ambassadors at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.
scale mining is currently taking place in Guyana. “If we’re going to have a sustainable long-term relationship, it can’t be onesided. You have to make sure Guyana grows and is able to develop as well,” Devine explained. “So we’ve tried to provide not only regulatory assistance but also on the educational side, Parliament House offering courses in everything from environmental safety to health and mining techniques. We want to especially offer those sorts of initiatives that will give young Guyanese much better opportunities in the future.” Another huge opportunity for Guyana is China, the world’s most populous country, which last year celebrated the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties with Guyana. “China has forever been a partner of Guyana, in good times and bad,” the foreign minister said, noting that Beijing has never forgotten the fact that
her nation’s socialist leaders extended diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic in 1972 — back when many of Guyana’s Caribbean neighbors had instead allied themselves with Taiwan. “Now that China is doing very well, it has not only invested here but has played a part in Guyana’s development in other ways too,” said RodriguesBirkett. “Nearly 45,000 laptops have been distributed as part of China’s ‘One Laptop Per Family’ program.” Zhang Limin, China’s ambassador in Georgetown, said that in 1853, the first group of Chinese indentured workers arrived in Guyana, sowing the seeds of friendship. “For over 160 years, the Chinese immigrants in Guyana have lived in harmony with the local people, working side by side and making significant contributions to the social and economic development of Guyana,” said Zhang. “On the political front, China and Guyana are good partners with equality and mutual trust. And political trust between our two countries has been increasingly consolidated through frequent high-level exchanges of visits and contacts in our governments, parliaments and political parties.”
Even though the United States remains our largest trading partner — and the place with our largest Diaspora population — we are looking at relations with other countries, particularly with emerging economies. — Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, foreign minister of Guyana
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April • May 2013