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Client Profile:
Guyana is one of Latin America and the Caribbean’s poorest countries (GDP per capita around US$4500). It is currently struggling to diversify its economy to reduce its dependence on a few traditional sectors such as sugar, rice and bauxite and the exports of raw materials, especially in the wake of the discovery of large oil reserves.

Legal Issue:
Guyana is interested in diversifying its economy through providing greater support to its manufacturers and small business sector. In this context, it aims to explore the development of special economic zones as a means to attract FDI while ensuring the competitiveness of local businesses. Getting the regulatory framework right is a key element in ensuring the success of these zones.

Sidley’s Pro Bono Work:
Sidley lawyers are assisting the government of Guyana in analysing different regulatory structures available to establish a special economic zone. Specifically, Sidley lawyers are analysing the legal consistency of different types of zones with the WTO as well as CARICOM. Moreover, Sidley lawyers are looking at best practices, both in the Latin American context and internationally, to inform their analysis.

Client feedback:
“The Guyana Government in general, and specifically the Ministry of Trade and its Investment arm have been seeking to diversify the production and trade base of Guyana’s economy. This need took on increased urgency with the discovery of oil in 2015 and led to public policy that sought to ensure that a dominant oil sector does not undermine the promotion of economic balance and the long-term commitment to a low carbon development strategy.

Guyana’s mission to the WTO based in Geneva became aware of the pro bono program of Sidley Austin that is dedicated to assisting Emerging Enterprises throughout the world. In 2018 the Guyana Mission approached the Sidley professionals responsible for the program and sought their assistance on the promotion and development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

Sidley’s response and assistance has been tremendously beneficial and timely. The Sidley team produced two memos on SEZs – one setting out the different SEZ models adopted globally, and another more focused on best practices for building SEZs in different industries. In November 2019 a Sidley professional travelled to Guyana and presented this work to trade and development professionals. The importance and appreciation of the Sidley contribution is well represented by its continued engagement by the Government of Guyana.”

- Ambassador Deep Ford, Former Guyana Ambassador to United Nations and other International Organizations at Geneva.