Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 23rd 2017 Contents From Page 4
Biesebroek spoke to the Business Guardian
last Thursday at his office in the Sagicor Build-
ing at Queen's Park West in Port-of-Spain.
He delivered his credentials last September
and said the delegation in T&T was established
41 years ago.
Despite the challenges globally, he believes
that T&T has a good chance to diversify its
economy and compete globally and agriculture
is an excellent option.
"Someone told me that 60 per cent of the
food that is consumed in T&T is imported. That
is very expensive. When I go to the supermarket
I see some of the imported products are very
"But when I see the local products, they are
off very good quality. I buy local food products
when I can. So if you can reduce the import
of food by a serious percentage, that in itself
provides incentives for people to get into ag-
riculture," he said.
He said there is "great potential" for the
country to get into food production and to
diversify the economy.
He gave the example of potatoes (not sweet
potato) grown in T&T..
"I am a potato eater and I find that T&T-
grown potatoes are very good. I prefer to buy
these to the imported ones. It is about price
preference and I do not know why people would
pay more for foreign.
"The point is there is a lot of food that is
imported and it can be replaced with local
He visited Tobago last week and saw small
projects supported by the Government under
the Competitiveness Programme that the EU
"People in Tobago are moving into process-
ing fruit and the production of goat cheese and
things like that.
"I visited a lady who produces goat cheese
and sells to supermarkets there. When she sells
to the supermarkets her products sells out in 15
minutes. The demand is there," he said.
The EU's trade and development partner-
ship with the Caribbean stretches back over
more than 30 years. In October 2008 Antigua
and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize,
Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lu-
cia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts
and Nevis, Surinam, T&T, and the Dominican
Republic signed the Cariforum-EU Economic
Partnership Agreement with the EU.
Cariforum refers to the body comprising
Caribbean ACP States which are signatories
of the Georgetown Agreement and it includes
most of the members of Caricom and the Do-
minican Republic. The ACP agreement was
signed in 1975, and it created the African, Car-
ibbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). The
grouping comprises 79 African, Caribbean and
According to Biesebroek, the purpose of the
Economic Partnership Agreement is to make
it easier for people and businesses from the
two regions to invest in and trade with each
other and thus to help Caribbean countries
grow their economies and create jobs.
"The EPA wanted a developmental agenda
and it was not just about preferential access to
the EU market but it was also about assisting
the countries of the different regions and to
create regional economic integration."
He does not believe that T&T and the rest
of countries of the region are taking full ad-
vantage of the opportunities that exist in the
Economic Partnership Agreement.
"That is clearly a subject of discussion be-
tween the EU and the Cariforum countries. We
have to try to promote the possibilities that do
exist under the EPA for local producers to tap
into the EU markets."
He referred to the EU Business Chamber in
T&T, which was established three years ago
and seeks opportunities for businesses for
"At the level of the ambassadors, we dis-
cuss with the Minister of Trade, with the EU
Chamber, the T&T Chamber of Commerce and
other sectors to gauge what they see under the
EPA and if they think companies have the op-
portunity to export."
He spoke about several sectors in T&T's
economy that have the potential to export to
"I was told the fisheries sector is looking at
fishing opportunities. I was also told that there
are people in the poultry sector where there
is potential to export. Of course they need to
meet the standards that the EU requires. The
EU can provide support in those areas under
our regional programme."
He said the EU wants to see a regional mar-
ket with strong economies as foreign investors
would rather deal with a large bloc than small
"These foreign investors can service a larger
market. If the market is very small, then maybe
it is not worth the investment. Once investors
are in T&T, they can trade easily with other
countries. This would be a bonus for European
companies looking for investment."
According to statistics provided by the EU,
T&T exported US$1,411,466 worth of goods to
the EU in 2015. Some of the products include
minerals, beverages, cocoa and its products
and plastics. Although some countries world-
wide are now looking inwards with nationalist
rhetoric and economic policies, Biesebroek de-
fended free trade and said it is the only way
countries can create wealth.
"The EU believes that free trade does pro-
mote economic growth. If you have economic
growth there is the possibility for people to
gain employment and also to increase income
equality," he said.
Responding to critics of the EPA and people
who are against free trade, he said "isolation
does not work."
"History has shown that in the past and we
all know what has happened in the past. Europe
believes that if a country promotes free trade
the possibility for economic growth are there.
If you stop trade then economies will begin to
shrink. That is our philosophy."
Responding to a question on how Brexit
may impact the EPA and EU-T&T relations,
he said: "For the time being the UK is and re-
mains a member of the EU with all rights and
obligations of a member state until its exit. If
and when the UK leaves the European Union,
the EU agreements with third countries will
continue to apply, even if on a smaller EU ter-
ritory, and the EU will continue to honour all
of its commitments.
"This is also the case for the Economic
Partnership Agreement. The rationale for the
agreement has not changed and the EU will
remain an essential trading partner and the
world's largest market."
FEBRUARY 23 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COVER STORY | BG5
'Free trade, sure path to wealth'
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