TT exported an estimated $456 million worth of goods to Cuba in 2016 while it imported $37 million of products from the island that same year. (see table)
The Trade Ministry detailed the 2016 trade between TT and Cuba in response to emailed questions from Business Day
"Goods exported to Cuba included anhydrous ammonia, diesel and other gas oils, toilet paper and facial tissues, bunker ‘c’ grade fuel oil, (Angostura) aromatic bitters, preserved or prepared fruits, nuts or plant parts, water-thinned paints and eye-makeup preparations," the statement said.
That same year, Cuba's exports to TT included undenatured ethyl alcohol, safety/detonating fuses, cigars, clothing items, insecticides and non-sparkling wine.
The ministry provided data from the Central Statistical Office which showed exports to Cuba fluctuated significantly between 2012-2016.
From $46.63 million in 2012, the value of goods exported jumped to $300.77 million in 2013 before dropping to $23.08 million the following year.
In 2015, trade rose again, this time to $55.35 million before another spike was recorded – $455.53 million – in 2016.
Exports of anhydrous ammonia to Cuba in 2016 accounted for most of the trade that year – $347.63 million of the $455.53 million worth of exports.
Meanwhile Cuba's 2012 exports were of a similar value to TT's that year – $42.63 million. However there was a drop in 2013 – $22.41 million – followed by moderate increases in 2014 ($39.75 million) and 2015 ($57.36 million), before dropping again in 2016, to $37.32 million.
Summing it up, the ministry said, "TT’s trade balance with Cuba has fluctuated greatly over the period. From $278.36 million in 2013, the trade fell to $16.67 million in 2014, indicating that imports outweighed exports. However, the trade balance improved and saw a significant upswing to $418.21 million in 2016."
TT's export/import relationship with Cuba was made possible by the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement between Caribbean Community (Caricom) and Cuba, which was signed on July 5, 2000. TT subsequently passed the Caricom-Cuba Trade and Economic Cooperation Act No 5 of 2006, which gave effect to the agreement.
The agreement provides for duty-free treatment on certain goods with provisions for agricultural products to be afforded duty free treatment at specified times for the year.
In addition to trade in goods, the agreement also covers trade promotion and facilitation, services (to be negotiated), tourism, investment and intellectual property rights between the parties.
Products originating in Caricom that are eligible for duty-free entry into Cuba include meat, poultry, fish and seafood, milk and milk based products, eggs, vegetables, spices, sugar confectionery and cocoa products, juices, sauces and condiments, cosmetics, insecticides and fungicides, textiles and clothing, and household electrical machinery and equipment.
Cuban products eligible for duty-free entry into the more developed countries (MDCs) of Caricom (including TT) include, inter alia, live animals, meat, fish and seafood, tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, ores and other minerals, chemicals and oxides, hormones, glands and organs, medicaments, essential oils and extracts, cosmetic products, knives, safes, boilers, turbines, pumps, scientific instruments and pre-fabricated buildings.
The ministry said Jose Chaple, director of Latin America and the Caribbean in Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, "declared at the recently held Cuba-Caribbean Business forum in Santiago de Cuba, that TT has achieved the distinction of being Cuba’s number one trading partner in the Caribbean and fifth trading partner in Latin America and the Caribbean."
Two key ways in which this level of trade has been developed are the TT Manufacturers' Association's (TTMA) annual Trade and Investment Convention (TIC) and the annual International Trade Fair of Havana (FIHAV) – the most important commercial fair in Cuba.
TIC 2018 takes place this week at Centre of Excellence, Macoya. This year, in addition to a booth, the Cuban delegation includes at least 25 people, predominantly buyers. This could lead to even more trade between both countries and would further cement TT's title as Cuba's top Caribbean trading partner.
Asked what benefits it expects will arise from Cuba' participation in TIC 2018, the ministry told Business Day, "TT businesses will have the opportunity to network and establish new business linkages with Cuban exporters (while) Cuban businesses will have the opportunity to gain market intelligence and test the receptiveness of the TT market to their products by connecting with potential customers.
Additionally, today has been designated Cuba National Day at TIC 2018. The ministry said, "this will provide a platform for the Cuban businesses represented to promote awareness of their brands and engage in business-to-business (B2B) meetings, thus building stronger linkages with the TT market and allowing them to strengthen their market presence."
The TT Trade Facilitation Office in Cuba was officially opened in 2007. The following year, it began working with exporTT to coordinate and facilitate TT’s annual participation in FIHAV.
The ministry said FIHAV "offers companies interested in the Cuban market an opportunity to connect with potential customers and to gain feedback on their product. Participation also provides an opportunity to gain insight into the business culture, as well as new products and trends in the Cuban market."
TT's largest delegation to an international trade fair was to FIHAV 2016. Led by Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, the delegation comprised 39 local companies from a range of sectors, including trade and energy.
Gopee-Scoon held bilateral discussions with Cuba's minister of Foreign Trade and Investment and with the president of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce while the energy delegation participated in meetings where areas of cooperation and opportunities in Cuba's energy industry were discussed.
The ministry said participants, including the ANSA McAL Group, VEMCO and Sacha Cosmetics "reported positive and tangible outcomes" following FIHAV 2016.
In addition, the TTMA organised a trade mission to Cuba in March 2017 aimed at promoting and increase bilateral relations. The mission was assisted by the Trade Facilitation Office in Cuba and exporTT. On the mission, the TTMA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Cuba Chamber of Commerce.