OFFICIALS of the Trade and Industry Ministry encouraged local business people on Thursday to continue to explore potential investment opportunities in the United Kingdom. They did so during a virtual awareness session hosted by the ministry on the Cariforum-UK Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) for exporters in the manufacturing and services sectors.
Trinidad and Tobago signed the EPA between Cariforum and the UK in April 2019. The legislation to give effect to the EPA domestically was proclaimed by the President Paula-Mae Weekes on March 31. Cariforum comprises all 14 Caricom member states and the Dominican Republic.
Ministry director (trade facilitation) Susan Singh Seerattan said the EPA governs UK-Cariforum relations, since the UK decided to leave the European Union in January 2020.
Ministry trade analyst Akil Yearwood said the EPA "is not just a trade agreement." Yearwood explained the EPA allows for collaboration between Cariforum investors and their UK counterparts to build a wide range of competencies which are important to their respective businesses.
Speaking in the House of Representatives on March 24, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon highlighted some of the opportunities which local business people could explore through the Cariforum-UK EPA.
Gopee-Scoon explained that both the Cariforum-EU and Cariform-UK EPAs give TT "a predictable and permanent arrangement for both the export of primary and manufactured goods and services."
TT signed on to the Cariforum-EU agreement in 2008. She added that both agreement allow the import of much needed goods like pharmaceuticals.
"TT, as part of Cariforum, is now guaranteed duty-free, quota-free access for all of its exports into the UK with the exception of things like arms and ammunition."
Gopee-Scoon added that UK products entering Cariforum states, including TT, will be subject to "either immediate duty free access or a phased reduction of duties over time."
Under both EPAs, Gopee-Scoon said, sensitive food sectors in Cariforum (such as frozen animal meats, fish fillets, shrimp, lobster, milk and creams, butter, cheese, honey, cabbage lettuce, peas, cassava, grapefruit, watermelon, paw paw and rice) are protected.
Gopee-Scoon said TT exports to the UK increased from 2015 to 2017. While exports to the UK declined in 2018 and 2019, Gopee-Scoon said there were signs of recovery last year. While methanol was TT's highest export to the UK from 2015 to 2019, Gopee-Scoon said it was replaced last year by LNG. She added that local non-energy products such as aromatic bitters, paints, curry, beer, shandy, rum, chocolates and cereals, do very well in the UK.
The legislation, Gopee-Scoon continued, also benefits local professionals such as veterinarians, doctors, urban planners, dentists, chefs and engineers who want to work in the UK for periods not exceeding six months.