AS the Trade and Investment Convention (TIC) marks its 20th anniversary next year, the TTMA and its partners are looking ahead to finding ways to use the convention to foster economic growth in TT. TIC 2019 was launched last Thursday at the Five Star Convention Centre in Chaguanas.
TTMA CEO Dr Ramesh Ramdeen said next year's TIC will be "pacing a lot of emphasis on the investment aspect." He said, "We're looking at promoting TT not only as a place of export potential of goods leaving here but possible business opportunities. For all people looking to engage in business opportunities for TT."
Ramdeen disclosed there were a lot of great meetings and opportunities "with people who want to come to TT to see what we have in terms of our indigenous products" at the end of this year's TIC.
"We are targeting specific buyers from North America and Central and South America," he explained. The focus, Ramdeen continued, is trying to promote the non-energy manufacturing sector. Food and beverage, construction, printing and packaging are the main areas of focus.
Ramdeen said, "Sooner rather than later, we feel that the construction sector will take back up and we have a lot of potential in that." He also saw opportunities for energy services companies to provide services to countries such as Guyana. Ramdeen said the 2019 TIC will also focus on promoting small and medium enterprises.
Next year's TIC will be at the Centre of Excellence in Macoya. Ramdeen said, "Of the 235 booths over 87 booths have gone already." He added 65 of that number "are local." Ramdeen said TTMA continues to encourage regional and extra regional involvement in the convention.
Former TTMA president Amjad Ali said TIC is a calendar event for TT and the region. Ali hoped that TIC will become to business what "Carnival is to tourism." Recalling a time when business people had to leave TT to market their goods, Ali said TIC now brings potential investors to TT.
Today, Ali said, TIC has the potential "of becoming an income earner, tourist attractor, job creator and foreign exchange earner." He said it allows smaller companies which cannot market overseas "to have their products compete on the international market." Ali said TIC remains a forum where smaller producers "can have an opportunity" to grow their business.
TSTT vice president (strategic alliance, enterprise and Tobago operations) Rakesh Goswami said, "TIC is synonymous with bringing sexy back for manufacturing." Describing a 20-year milestone in business as a double-edged sword, Goswammi opined it was "like what a couple asks themselves on their 20th wedding anniversary." He added, "How do I not mess this up?
Goswammi said 20 years ago TSTT introduced TT to its exclusive international area 868 (TNT). Prior to this, he said TT shared an 809 code with other Caribbean countries. Describing this as a "rallying point" for TT, Goswammi said 20 years later, bmobile is "on the eve of another definitive and transformative move in the company's history."
He said TSTT is "the only national telecom provider in the region that has managed the implementation of state of the art mobile, fibre, data centre, multimedia and security services." Goswammi said TSTT was proud to be associated with TIC and hoped its stakeholders would use its services as a springboard for the next 20 years.
Permanent secretary in the Trade and Industry Ministry Norris Herbert said the launch of TIC 2019, soon after the conclusion of TIC 2018 in July, “represents the enthusiasm of our manufacturers and the private sector in contributing to the sustainable development” of the economy.
At TIC 2018, Herbert said the ministry’s Proudly TT campaign was launched. He challenged members of the private sector to “to further intensify your efforts aimed at helping the government in its economic diversification thrust.”
Herbert said for many business people “the TIC remains a useful vehicle for local, regional and international manufacturers to help promote their businesses, reach new customers and even forge new business relationships.”
He observed that TIC 2018 attracted over 15,200 participants. This included 177 local companies and 35 regional and international enterprises from 16 countries. Herbert added that 23 business sectors including food and beverage, construction and agriculture were showcased at TIC 2018.
He reminded his audience of the ministry’s grant fund facility which helps a Grant Fund Facility to help small businesses acquire machinery and equipment up a maximum value of $250,000. “The facility is up and running and ready to receive applications,” Herbert said.
Herbert identified the ministry’s research and development fund, launched last November as another initiative to help economic diversification. “This fund provides funding of up to $1 million to help stimulate and support investment in new and advanced technology and innovation in the non-energy manufacturing and services sectors,” he said.
Recalling that several trade missions left TT for various countries under the tenure of the late former trade minister Ken Valley, Herbert said the ministry is returning to that strategy and “upping the ante.” He said missions recently visited key strategic markets including Jamaica and Colombia.
Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon led the mission to Colombia. Herbert said other missions planned for the rest of the year include ones to Canada, Guyana and Haiti.
Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan praised TTMA on TIC's 20th anniversary. Boodhan hoped for the construction of an international convention centre and hotel in Chaguanas, to help foster commercial activity in the borough.