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New Guyanese Government Hints at Shifting Oil Industry Focus From US to Post-Brexit Britain

© AP Photo / Richard DrewExxonMobil logo
ExxonMobil logo - Sputnik International
Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo has warned ExxonMobil his government will pass legislation to make the transnational oil giant pay its way in the small South American nation.

Guyana’s newly-elected government is looking to former colonial power the UK as a partner to expand its natural resources sector.

Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat, an MP for the ruling People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), met on Tuesday with the outgoing UK High Commissioner Greg Quinn and his deputy Ray Davidson, who will be acting in the role.

"The dialogue centred on capacity building within the oil and gas sector, forestry, and Guyana’s access to UK markets for greenheart lumber and forest products, among other issues relating to Brexit and possible collaboration for future trade," the Department of Public Information reported.

Islands in the Essequibo river - Sputnik International
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The UK and the Commonwealth bloc of former British colonies both took the PPP/C’s side in its battle with former president David Granger, whose APNU alliance clung to power for three months after losing the May general election. Regional blocs CARICOM and the Washington-based Organisation of American States also backed the PPP/C and president-elect Dr Irfaan Ali.

In 2016 Granger signed an offshore oil drilling deal with US-based giant ExxonMobil, whose then-CEO Rex Tillerson was set to become US President Donald Trump’s first secretary of state. The PPP/C criticised that deal in its election campaign as failing to benefit citizens.

Last week Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo warned ExxonMobil and other oil companies that the government would legislate to ensure his country's people and local firms benefit from the wealth from the oil find.

"The whole philosophy is; we want the oil companies to prosper, but Guyanese have to share that prosperity," Jagdeo told a radio programme titled ‘Guyana’s Oil and You’. "If we don’t then we might as well shut down the sector."

"We made it clear to ExxonMobil; this is not a new position… that we intend to pass Local Content Legislation, which the previous government did not do, which will force oil companies to ensure that they address the issues that are of pressing nature to our business community and ordinary people," the vice-president added.

The ExxonMobil oil platforms in national waters off the western Essequibo region also revived a territorial dispute with neighbouring Venezuela, which has a rival claim to the area dating back to the late 19th century.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres referred the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands in 2018, but the Venezuelan government refused to recognise the court's jurisdiction over the matter.

Guyana's economy is largely dependent on sugarcane plantations and logging.

The South American nation gained independence from the UK in 1966 under the leadership of the PPP and Premier Cheddi Jagan, but the rival People's National Congress, of which Granger is leader, held power until 1992 via widely-recognised campaigns of vote-rigging during the 70s and 80s.

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