(Trinidad Express) Former US ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Sally Cowal, has been praised for her role in opening up local markets 20 years ago, when she advocated the creation of the local American Chamber of Commerce.
Cowal, who was a guest speaker at the AmCham’s 20th anniversary gala at the Hyatt Regency hotel on Saturday, persuaded 12 locally based American companies to form the Chamber — influenced in part, she said, by her own shopping experiences here.
Chamber head, Hugh Howard, said :
“The success of this organisation in fostering and developing trade and investment between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States is self-evident as we have seen the growth of that small seed to a membership of over 300 entities, about 80 per cent of which are locally incorporated and owned enterprises.”
The Chamber’s role has now gone beyond trade, he said, allowing it to have a voice on social and environmental issues in T&T and, through its National Youth Productivity Forum, a presence in the development of some of the nation’s young people.
Cowal, who served as ambassador from 1991 to 1994, said at the start of the period, she often found it difficult to source certain goods at the supermarkets.
Describing T&T as being “as close to heaven on earth as it can get”, Cowal said the place was at the time “a closed shop”.
This eventually motivated her to pitch the idea of a chamber to a group of US-owned companies based in T&T, she said.
While AmCham alone didn’t make the difference and changes in trade and embargo policies played a huge role in expanding local markets, she felt the Chamber’s role had been significant.
“The changes might have taken place more slowly,” she said.
Cowal said T&T is a different world today and is now “really in the game and on the world stage”.
Also speaking was Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, who also commended the Chamber for its role.
Ramnarine said as far as patterns of change have so far established themselves, this country, including its energy sector, is due for another “leap” in evolution in this decade.
He said part of this evolution lies in how the government manages downstream industries generated by the energy sector, and said it must move beyond the first branch of such industries into “downstream of the downstream”.