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Building trade ties with T&T
T&T's economy has been in the
doldrums over the last few years
because of the drop in oil and gas
While successive Governments
have spoken about the need to diversify the
economy since 1962, unfortunately very lit-
tle has been done to achieve this seemingly
This lack of diversi ication raises the ques-
tion about how competitive T&T's economy
truly is, and what potential exists for the
country to move beyond the monetisation
of oil and gas.
In the contemporary globalised world,
large transnational companies can easily
move capital to Africa or China or Latin
America or to anywhere other than T&T.
What makes T&T attractive as an invest-
The Sunday Business Guardian spoke to a
number of foreign embassies in T&T about
their business and trade links with the
country and how they view the country as
an investment destination and a place to do
Andreas Haack, Deputy Head of German
Embassy told Sunday Business that T&T re-
mains an important place to do business for
"At the Embassy we see ourselves as play-
ing an important role by providing informa-
tion. We are here to help business people
in T&T who want to know about doing busi-
ness with Germany. We have no German
Chamber of Commerce in T&T, but it is a
task taken over by Euro-Cham."
He described T&T as the "hub" of the
Eastern Caribbean in the area of travel and
"T&T has trade links like ports so in that
sense T&T serves as a hub for all of the East-
ern Caribbean all the way to Jamaica and
Puerto Rico including Guyana and Suri-
name. That's why we have an Embassy here
as it is an important place for the region.
T&T is well linked to Europe and we have
the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
which is very important."
He said recent years have been "challeng-
ing" for T&T because of the decline in oil
and gas which accounts for most of the rev-
enue the country receives.
"We are a bit concerned because Ger-
many is a big investor in T&T as it is one of
our largest direct investment destinations
in Latin America and the Caribbean, which
is around US $4 billion. The amount puts it
on a level with Mexico. This investment is
mainly in the petrochemical sector in Point
He also expressed "concerns" about the
"This is a general problem because there
is a shortage which affects various sectors
of T&T's economy. Unfortunately it led to a
shutdown of the ammonium plant in Point
Lisas. We are hoping that these issues can
be overcome and all the plants in Point Lisas
will be operational."
Beyond oil and gas, he supports the initi-
ative of T&T's Government to diversify the
"That is key for the economic develop-
ment of T&T. Also in the larger context of the
reduced role of hydrocarbons in the future,
all that is linked to climate change which is
affecting the Caribbean. Look at the hurri-
canes last year in Dominica. Diversi ication
Haack said there is a relationship in the
tourism sector, as before the Carnival there
was a cruise ship with mainly German pas-
sengers coming to Port-of-Spain.
There is also a flight twice a week from
Frankfurt to Tobago, with Haack stating that
this shows that Tobago is well connected to
Germany's tourism market.
He also said there is a potential for agricul-
"Angostura and its products is one exam-
ple. There is also potential in cocoa, and this
has a huge potential in Germany. The cocoa
consumption in the world is increasing."
Jorge Contreras, First Secretary, Guate-
mala Embassy told Sunday Business that
the Embassy, representing the Government
of Guatemala is doing a lot of work to im-
prove trade and investment between the
He said the Partial Scope Trade Agree-
ment of Trinidad & Tobago - Guatemala
(APP) was signed by both parties on Febru-
ary 6, 2015 and aims to improve economic
relations between both countries through
the expansion of trade in goods and ser-
"In terms of merchandise trade, product
coverage is limited but varied. The APP was
rati ied by the Guatemalan Congress in Feb-
ruary 2017 and still needs to be rati ied by
the Parliament of T&T to be in force."
He said when the agreement enters into
force, manufacturers in T&T will bene it
from preferential rates of 135 products.
"Exporters from T&T can sell agro-pro-
cessed products, for example: curry,
chocolate, jams and guava jellies, peanut
butter---agricultural products, hydraulic flu-
ids, toilet paper or facial, building bricks,
aluminum tiles and doors to a market of
approximately 17 million people."
He said on the import side, T&T granted
Guatemala preferential rates for 144 prod-
ucts such as beef, cheese, flowers and veg-
etables, processed foods and manufactured
goods like plastic sheets, garments and cos-
According to statistics Contreras pro-
vided, in 2017, exports from Guatemala
to T&T were US$21,950.50 and imports
amounted to US$6,342.90.
The trade balance was in favor to Guate-
mala for the amount of US$ 15,607.50.
UKAccording to a statement from the Brit-
ish High Commission, the United Kingdom
and T&T have strong trade links, based on
shared history, language, legal, political and
Trade and investment links are particu-
larly strong in the ener y sector.
UK ener y companies are major employ-
ers and investors in T&T, and lease the larg-
est quantity of ener y acreage offshore.
Referring to the T&T, as the "most indus-
trialised" country in the region, the High
Commission noted that T&T also provides
enhanced market access to Latin America
via trade agreements such as CARICOM Co-
lombia and Partial Scope Agreement
According to the High Commission, T&T
offers competitive investment incentives in
the non-ener y sector.
"For example, it takes relatively little
time to set up a business when compared
to its regional counterparts. For a number
of years, the UK has been supporting devel-
opment of the cocoa sector. Local cocoa is
exceptionally high quality, and the industry
has strong export potential. A recent part-
nership between Trinidad and Tobago Fine
Cocoa Company and Harrods of London led
to the production of high-quality Trinitario
chocolates in T&T for export to the United
Kingdom for inal packaging and marketing
The latest trade statistics for 2016 show
that the United Kingdom exports to T&T
were worth £259 million (£131 million in
goods; £128 million in services).
United Kingdom imports from T&T were
valued at £112 million (£67 million in goods;
£45 million services).
A statement from the Cuban Embassy
said at the latest Havana International Fair
(FIHAV 2017), ExporTT, signed two impor-
tant agreements on behalf of T&T, with
Cuba, one of them with the Centre of Cuban
Trade and Investment Promotion, ProCUBA,
to promote trade and foreign investment.
The other was with the Cuban Chamber
of Commerce, where a 2017 2018 Plan of Ac-
tion was approved, aimed at the exchange of
information and cooperation on economic
objectives, where new sectors of common
interest for both countries are incorporated.
The aforementioned would facilitate trade
between Cuba and T&T in sectors such as
ener y, product manufacturing, biotechnol-
o y, among others.
In January, regional carrier Caribbean
Airlines started flying to Havana, with a fre-
quency of two flights a week which would
facilitate the links between the countries of
CARICOM and Cuba, and will offer major
opportunities for tourism and trade.
Other than oil and gas, the Cuban Em-
bassy said that T&T's economy is "dynamic"
and has the potential to supply Cuba with
Cuba imports manufactured goods, in
particular food products and hygiene items
At the end of 2015, the commercial ex-
change between T&T and Cuba reached
approximately US $50 million and for 2016
the amount was doubled, reaching $109
Alfonso Múnera, Colombian Ambassador
told Sunday Business that the business re-
lationship between the two countries has
increased over the years.
"My feeling is that we are doing much
better in trade. I see interest from both
countries and soon we will see a big im-
provement in trade," he said.
This week he said there was a workshop
in the head of ice of the T&T Manufacturers'
Association (TTMA) in partnership with Ex-
porTT and the Colombian Embassy, and it
was about doing business in Colombia.
"More than 30 business people went to
the workshop. It was really a positive sur-
prise as they were expecting about ten
people. They want to know more about
business in Colombia."
ExporTT has announced that they are
preparing a trade mission to Colombia and
it will take place in September.
He said T&T's increased business ties is
indicative of its willingness to be closer to
Beyond ener y he gave some examples of
products T&T can and has already started to
send to Colombia.
"Spices like Masala and curry are very
attractive in the Colombian market. There
is also the beverage sector and T&T rum
which has a lot of potential. In the area of
services, there is also opportunity to send
to Colombia educational English material.
Thousands of Colombians go to USA and
Canada to learn English but T&T is so close,"
Fernando Schmidt, Chilean Ambassador,
was much more dampened in his view on
doing business with T&T.
When asked about doing business, he
said: "It is hard to break with a culture of
However, he noted that T&T has a lot of
potential once it does the right things to
move beyond just being a primary producer
of oil and gas.
He pointed out that T&T can be a hub for
Latin American and Chilean goods as there
is an excellent airport but very few air ser-
Schmidt added that he believes T&T's
tourism has never been promoted in the
way it should be.
"T&T can be a good market for Chileans
tourists as they are used to travel to the Do-
minican Republic, Cuba, Florida, Mayan
Riviera and many other destinations in the
Caribbean Basin" he said.
He spoke about cocoa as a quality prod-
uct, and noted that Chileans import Trini-
tario cocoa, but through Belgium.
He concluded by saying that Chile is an
open economy and all T&T's industrial
products are welcomed provided they are
competitive and comply with international
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