The focus of the TT Manufacturers' Association’s (TTMA) manufacturing export strategy 2025 is to increase exports through private sector initiatives over the next five years. TTMA President Franka Costelloe said the aim for 2020 is to restabilise the export market share and sales for the non-energy sector.
Speaking at the virtual launch on Wednesday, she said the association is launching a three-phase strategy for 2020 to stabilise, strengthen and secure the manufacturing sector. She said it would focus on five strategic themes: working with the top 20 manufacturers to double total non-energy manufacturing exports; working with government to increase reach and depth in Caricom markets and the diaspora to promote exports; working with domestic entrepreneurs to sustainably increase the quantity and quality of raw material supply; increasing competitive advantage through better skills and productivity; and partnering with government to fix trade facilitation issues and increase the ease of doing business in Trinidad and Tobago.
Costelloe said the strategy was built on seven key factors including advocacy for an enabling business environment; identification of demand regionally and internationally; developing the supply capacity of local suppliers; facilitating access to fit-for-purpose manufacturing infrastructure, including shared production and distribution mechanisms; labour; technology and innovation; and access to capital and financing.
She said phase one is about synchronising or redirecting the market by connecting local suppliers with local buyers who would normally source materials outside, which will mean more business for local businesses and less demand on scarce foreign exchange to secure materials from outside. She said it will require intense collaboration and cooperation between members.
Phase two interventions are heavily weighted towards marketing. She said trade missions will be conducted virtually in 2020, with Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados already having signed up. She said the association expects to connect with over 100 companies through the virtual Trade and Investment Conference and the trade missions to explore business-to-business opportunities.
Phase three activities will demand broader and wider digitisation from e-commerce platforms and plant automation. She said the sooner companies get on board, the sooner they will be better positioned to take new markets.
She said the TTMA will continue to push hard for digitisation of government systems including improving access to capital for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through the support of angel investing, venture capital, private equity, and junior stock exchange for manufacturing entities which allow investors to have exit strategies. She said the TTMA will be investing in an online platform for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) members to be exposed to and access interested investors.
SMEs are the next generation of business, she said, and bigger companies need to partner in the thrust for a stronger, sustainable non-energy sector. She said currently 20 of 1,154 companies represent $2.9 billion or 80 per cent of exports. The TTMA believes the manufacturers amongst its 890 SMEs can increase this figure so by 2025, there should be 40 companies contributing $4 billion in export.
Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said given the potential of the manufacturing sector to drive further economic transformation, the Ministry of Trade and Industry has recently developed a national manufacturing policy for TT for the period 2020-2025, which was shared with the TTMA for inclusion in their strategic plan.
“Essentially, what we have now done, is harmonise the private and public sector approaches unifying us in purpose, with the end result being a Strategic Framework for the Expansion of the Manufacturing Sector.”