(Trinidad Guardian) Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Cadiz says T&T will be moving from the traditional markets of Caricom to a market of 70 million people in South and Central America. He said last Monday’s Panama Partial Scope Agreement was just the beginning of the manufacturing sector’s incursion into that 70 million market.
Last week, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar led a local, high-level delegation, which included Cadiz, Foreign Minister Surujrattan Rambachan and Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine to Panama where the agreement between T&T and Panama was signed. Rambachan and Panama’s vice president and chief trade negotiator, Diana Salazar, signed the Partial Scope Trade Agreement, which has been negotiated over six months.
Speaking at the launch of the Trade and Investment Convention at the Hyatt on Friday, Cadiz explained that agreement mainly pertained to goods with T&T would have access to 177 products made in Panama. “T&T could now ship to Panama,” he said. He said even though it is going to take more time, T&T is looking at tapping into Panama’s service sector.
“Panama has a huge services sector, so we are going to be working on developing that part of the agreement soon to include services.” In an effort to expand T&T’s market trade, Cadiz said the Government is aggressively pursuing several trade agreements with Central and South America. As early as April 11, Cadiz said Government will be initiating discussions for partial scope agreements with Guatemala followed by El Salvador.
This could generate 40 million additional customers to T&T, Cadiz said. “Caricom now is roughly five million people and Central America is 40 million. The non-English-speaking Caribbean countries, such as Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the French islands, the Dutch islands, represent a market just short of 70 million.
“Therefore, in about two years, we are going to be moving from a traditional market of Caricom to a market of 70 million people and this would only augur well for goods and services provided.” Cadiz said even though the Government has been criticised for its overseas trips, it has in fact raised the country’s profile during these missions.
“We have to go out there and pound the pavement,” he said. Meanwhile, he said Rambachan is working on establishing a T&T embassy in Beijing, China, to facilitate trade relationships and better communication. Japan is showing investment interest in T&T, he said.