|Adjusting to the new normal |
Thursday, January 12 2017
Despite the often negative comments that are heard when analysing the current economic situation, the TT Chamber believes that citizens understand that there is a need to transform our country from a one-commodity producer to one that harnesses the numerous talents with which we are blessed; and certainly we can boast of much more than oil and gas!
Trinidad and Tobago now stands at a critical juncture where the culture and economy must be transformed in order to survive in what has been described as the “new normal”. Since the collapse of oil and gas prices in 2014, TT has lost approximately $20 billion in annual revenue. The recovery process will require building a significantly stronger export-oriented capacity and harnessing the potential of non-traditional sectors. It will also require major re-think of our policies as we go forward.
Achieving this will involve a frank analysis of the challenges that confront us and a common determination of strategies that will be beneficial to the country, irrespective of political leanings, ethnic considerations and social strata.
Over the past six years Government has made some strides towards boosting commercial opportunities for TT’s exporters in the Latin American market. Discussions and negotiations have commenced with several Latin American territories for partial scope agreements.
In October last year, the long-awaited trade agreement with Panama came into force, and work continues this year, with respect to finalising other similar alliances with El Salvador and Guatemala. It is expected that discussions will begin with Chile with respect to establishing a partial scope agreement with TT.
The TT Chamber has also been actively engaged in a range of activities geared to ensuring that its members are prepared to take full advantage of these and other extra-regional opportunities.
We are promoting the interests of our members in markets signed on to the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and CARIFORUM, while preserving the present market advantage of our domestic manufacturers and service providers. The TT Chamber is also monitoring the anticipated separation of Great Britain from the European Union, despite the fact that this dissolution could take several years.
The International Trade Negotiations Unit (ITNU) of the TT Chamber performs an invaluable role in serving as an information-sharing conduit between the private sector and Government. The Unit plays a critical role in guiding research and activities undertaken by the TT Chamber in order to access new markets.
The exploration of new extra-regional markets and those within CARICOM is likely to unearth new trading opportunities. The ITNU is therefore looking forward to building upon previous successes with trade missions to Cuba and Panama; and within the coming weeks, we should announce the markets which TT Chamber members selected for the next trade mission planned for June 2017.
These efforts are all ongoing, and geared to taking a leading role in helping to transform our economy to a productive and sustainable one. Prevailing conditions today may well be the catalyst for this transformation, as we embrace new ways for creating sustainability.