Guyana and Europe have a long-standing trade relationship. Over the years the European Union has been among Guyana's most lucrative export markets representing mostly between 30 % and 35 % of Guyana's total exports in value. Imports from the EU accounted for 10% to 18% of total imports in value over 2003-2010. The main European trading partner is by far the United Kingdom, followed by the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Sweden and France.
Guyana’s exports to the EU have traditionally consisted of sugar, rice, rum, bauxite, precious stones and timber products. The EU has been, and still is, Guyana's main export market for cane sugar and other sugar products (especially the UK). Exports of rice have increased significantly in the last 2-3 years. Exports of fishery products reached a noteworthy volume since in 2004 Guyana was certified for exporting these products to the EU. Guyana's imports from the EU consist mainly of machinery and transport equipment, foodstuff and chemicals. Guyana's trade balance with the EU always shows a considerable surplus.
Guyana's trade relations with the EU are largely defined within the context of its membership in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Caribbean Forum of ACP States (CARIFORUM). The relationship between both trading blocks has recently undergone substantial changes. It entered a new phase with the conclusion of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2008.
The EPA is a wide-ranging asymmetrically reciprocal agreement replacing the non-reciprocal preference scheme previously granted by the EU. Thus, as set out in the EPA, the so-called Sugar Protocol which granted certain ACP countries like Guyana preferential access to the EU market (purchase of guaranteed quantities at a fixed price),was terminated on 30 September 2009.
All sugar exports from CARIFORUM states will enter the EU duty free and quota free by 2012, subject to a special safeguard clause in place until 2015. In the same vein, the EU scrapped quotas and tariffs for rice with effect from January 2010, and CARIFORUM rice exporting countries have quota-free and duty-free access to the EU market. Further, the new arrangement makes no distinction between whole grain and broken rice, which means that CARIFORUM exporters should be better able to target the higher-priced market for whole grain rice, once supplies are available.