Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 24th 2015 Contents September 24 • www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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T&T would do well to look for markets in Latin America s
rapidly growing economies, says Nirad Tewarie, the chief
executive of the American Chamber of Commerce of T&T
"By 2020, Latin America s GDP is expected to reach US$10
trillion, double that of 2010, with 640 million active consumers.
This can translate into a ready market for many local products.
Economies such as Mexico, Guatemala, and Panama continue
to experience steady economic growth," said Tewarie who
spoke last week Wednesday at AmCham s seminar on "Doing
business with Latin America" at the Hyatt Regency Hotel,
He gave the example of Peru, one of Latin America s fastest
"Another thriving economy, in Latin America is Peru. Over
the period 2002 to 2012, the Peruvian economy almost doubled
in size, and with continued GDP growth of even a modest
2.4 per cent in 2014, the World Bank has dubbed Peru as one
of the best-performing economies in Latin America," he said.
He said local companies must look for increased trade
opportunities with all countries but a special emphasis must
be placed on Latin America.
"AmCham T&T believes that we must focus more on the
diversification of markets with an immediate emphasis on
Latin America. This is the rationale for this event. In support
of this diversification of markets, AmCham T&T offers our
members unparalleled access to the business community and
governments in this hemisphere. From our close and direct
relationship with the largest business organization in the
world, the US Chamber of Commerce, which we visit at least
once a year, to our 23 sister AmChams in Latin America and
the Caribbean," he said.
Tewarie said despite concerns about the economic climate
that the country operates in, AmCham remains optimistic
about the future of T&T s economy and its growth poten-
"At home in T&T, we can at least be proud that we seamlessly
transitioned from one Government to another. However con-
cerns about the economy linger as we prepare to enter a new
fiscal year with a new government.
"High on the list of concerns is revenue generation, as our
energy exports account for about 70 per cent of the country s
total exports, and the prices of oil and gas continue their
downward trend with no immediate turn around in sight.
Add to that the frustration of the business community with
the perennially inefficient government bureaucracy and, more
recently, periods of US dollar shortages," he said.
Tewarie quoted from Norman Christie, Regional President
of bpTT at AmCham s T&T s Economic Outlook Forum earlier
this year, who said: "We should never let a good downturn
go to waste. If we are really clear about the circumstance we
find ourselves in then we must focus on what we should do
to make the best of it. We should not lose focus or get distracted
because if we do the world is very competitive. In a broad
sense what we should be looking at is how competitive can
we get in the circumstances."
Tewarie said AmCham T&T has brought to the table the
possibility of making the Piarco International Airport an
airport which can be pre-cleared for entry into the United
He said they believe that this is not only a feasible initiative
but one which will offer clear advantages in terms of fostering
a better relationship with the United States as well as positioning
T&T as a portal for increased business travel throughout the
He added, if they were to be successful in this initiative,
creating a real logistics cluster would be even more of a pos-
"Coupled with that, we know that Government of Chile
is keen on discussing the possibility of an air services agreement
with T&T. This too is because T&T is strategically located
not only for the movement of people but also of cargo through-
out the Americas. AmCham T&T supports this initiative and
will work with our sister AmCham in Chile as well as the
governments of both countries to make this intent, a reality,"
One way to improve the economy is to diversify T&T s
industries and also to cut the bureaucracy in the economy,
Tewarie said."While the non-energy sector, periodically records
some growth, if we are truthful, as a country, we cannot say
that, outside of the energy services sector, and maybe financial
services, we have truly developed globally competitive industries
on which we can build for growth beyond oil and gas.
"With the economic liberalization of the 1980s, our firms
adapted and grew to the point where our Caricom neighbours
often complained of our dominance in the region. The prospects
for future growth in Caricom are not great, although there
are definitely opportunities to be exploited in Haiti, Guyana
and Suriname," he said.
Tewarie quoted from Jim Conway, executive director Express
Delivery and Logistics Association who had to say about
AmCham s work: "As someone who has worked in Washington
for more than 30 years, I am well aware of the high degree
of difficulty in obtaining a face-to-face meeting with senior
government policy regulatory executives. I thus found it
remarkable and especially valuable to be able to participate
in a meeting which Amcham arranged with the Assistant
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security recently
in Trinidad. Our meeting was extremely productive and
resulted in an invaluable contact point for our Association in
Washington. Our Association is deeply appreciative of
AmCham s facilitation of this meeting and a tip of our collective
hats to the organization s ability to connect directly with
Referring to the issues raised by Conway, Tewarie said the
local express industry, including DHL, is concerned about
the impact on the business of somewhat arbitrary changes
to inspections and fees.
"We therefore recommend that T&T introduce a de-minimis
value of US$200 under which packages will not be subject
to inspection. The cost of inspecting these low-cost, low-
taxable items far outweighs the revenue derived from the
searches. Should the government agree to implement this
suggestion, which is contained in our 2015-2016 budget sub-
mission, the focus of the Customs and Excise Division and
its limited resources can be on the higher value items, which
yield more tax revenue. Efficiency of tax collection rather
than higher taxation should be the goal."
He believes that raising taxes should not be the first option
but increasing the efficiency of tax collection.
"While the question of revenue generation remains, we
firmly believe that increased taxation should not be the first
resort. We anticipate that some form of taxation may be pro-
posed in the upcoming budget such as a return to the Land
and Building tax. If so, we urge the government to be mindful
of the impact on business.
"On the flipside, AmCham T&T does support increased
efforts to make the tax collection system more efficient. In
this regard, we want to assure the government that they will
have in us, a partner who is willing to collaborate on the pro-
posed Revenue Authority, as a means of making the tax col-
lection system more efficient and effective."
Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon who also spoke at the
AmCham Seminar said market access is not the same as
She referred to data from ExporTT which show that while
there are more than 200 exporters to Caricom and North
America where preferential markets exist, there are less than
15 domestic firms exporting to Latin America, which she said
is not good.
"The Government believes that market presence in Latin
America can only be achieved through a sustained programme
to re-build and sustain our manufacturing and services sector,"
She said the new government is going to complete and
fully operationalise the Tamana Intech Park and the Piarco
Aero Park, upgrade all existing industrial estates and set up
new industrial parks in Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
"This will be in all areas of T&T and I want to say that
Point Fortin is included in that too," she said.
T&T must look for trade
opportunities in Latin America
AMCHAM's vice president, Catalina Herrera Roch pins a chamber brooch on Trade and Industry Minister, Paula Gopee-Scoon
following networking session titled ' Doing Business in Latin America at Hyatt Regency last Wednesday. Also in photo is
AMCHAM's CEO, Nirad Tewarie right and Managing Director, DHL, Reiner Wolfs. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
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