By Dr. Vishnu Bisram
There is close economic and political relations between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago (TT). In fact, the US is both countries largest trading partner. It makes sense therefore to have an American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) to facilitate business of companies of the three countries. Because America is a large market and with countless companies doing business with other countries, Guyanese & TT businesses may be able to capitalize on marketing opportunities outside of Guyana and America.
Trinidad & Tobago has an Amcham while US Ambassador to Guyana Perry Holloway announced at last American independence day celebration that an Amcham will be established in Guyana. For decades, I have advocated for a US-Guyana Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) organization or some similar kind of business association because of America’s important role in our economy and in our politics. But I could not find takers among the large business community to launch such an organization with some telling me to start it on my own; I am not a businessman. Few business persons saw the merit in starting Amcham pointing to the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and other business chambers playing that role. But other business chambers are generalized in nature and not America specific. Amcham Guyana is specific with regards to all aspects of business involving Guyanese and Americans in each other’s country or elsewhere.
There is an Amcham in Trinidad and in every major trading bloc or country to boost business ties and investment with US. In Trinidad, Amcham represents private sector companies, multi-nationals and government enterprises. Companies join and pay a fee. A paid CEO and staff manage the organization and its activities that are overlooked by a board (that has an elected President) selected by its hundreds of members. The T&T Amcham is 25 years old helping its companies with business contacts and opportunities. The body produces regular newsletters and a large magazine describing its activities and new opportunities for business activities. Amcham Trinidad attracts a large membership and turnout at conferences, seminars, symposiums, lectures, membership meetings, social meets, expos and other events. Fabulous commercial contacts are made and business growth derived from connections. The US, T&T, and the region benefits from the chamber and its membership’s activities.
Undoubtedly, major benefits would be derived from an Amcham Guyana. It will help to bring Guyana and US closer together and stimulate free and fair trade practices and investment in both and neighboring countries.
Amcham generally comprises of business folks (of all sizes), a small staff, an elected executive, and supporters like me who promote the body and look out for the interests of the business community. A Guyana Amcham, like its TT counterpart, would offer networking and marketing opportunities. Its activities or events will allow members to socialize and gain contacts that would expand business opportunities. The body itself will provide referrals for business. Amcham will create tremendous opportunities that benefit both countries economies including job creations and growth. It will provide a solid foundation from which to work to strengthen bilateral engagements and reinforce Guyana-U.S. strategic, economic, cultural, and people-to-people ties.
Among some other benefits I see for a Guyana Amcham similar to a TT one are: playing an important role in Guyana’s economy and politics; bringing the two countries together; generating hundreds of millions of US dollars in business; creating jobs; promoting business and national economic growth; building economic partnerships, interacting with decision makers in Guyana and America; gaining a voice in government; influencing policy agenda in Guyana; creating dialogues; boosting business profits; setting the agenda for trade and business; and more.
May I also call on Guyanese-Americans to form a US-Guyana Friendship Society that people of other nations set up between their countries and America. Ditto TT-US Friendship Society. Amcham and a Friendship Society will help to bolster economic and strategic ties with the US while leading to a higher standard of living and level of security from threats by hostile neighbors. A friendship society will help to address challenges (especially for Guyana) in security, energy (oil) economics, infrastructure, foreign investment, manufacturing, among others. It could even lead to high level dialogues with US Administration officials on geo-political and strategic interests. One must also remember that more Guyanese live in the US than in Guyana and hundreds of thousands Trinis live in USA. So a friendship society will strengthen ties across the borders between the national communities.
When launched, businesses should consider joining Amcham and or the US-Guyana Friendship Society as the body will be a great investment for business profitability and growth. If Guyana is to achieve its economic and strategic potential, it must work collaboratively with the US.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.