Gopee-Scoon tells India: Trinidad and Tobago open for investment

Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon - Photo by Sureash Cholai
Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon - Photo by Sureash Cholai

TRADE and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon has said Trinidad and Tobago is open for investment.

She expressed optimism that some of that investment could come from India, as efforts are being made to further strengthen economic ties between TT and India, on the journey towards a post-covid19 period.

Addressing a webinar on trade and business opportunities between India and Caribbean countries on Friday, Gopee-Scoon said, "TT is open for investments in the areas of agriculture and agro-processing, manufacturing, tourism, maritime activities, financial services and logistics and distribution."

She reminded participants that Government had developed a Roadmap to Recovery plan to provide strategic policy guidance for rebuilding a more resilient and sustainable economy, in a post-pandemic world.

"Critical components include the expansion of non-energy exports to traditional and non-traditional markets, improving fiscal incentives to promote investment and improving the ease of doing business."

Gopee-Scoon said, "Our current trade policy, closely aligned to our Roadmap to Recovery, seeks to increase economic growth by diversifying the country’s trade in goods and services and transforming to an economy that is based on innovation and value-added in both the goods and services sectors." She said local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) stand to benefit from these efforts.

"These smaller businesses are significant contributors to our local economy and are key priorities for expansion and growth in developing our domestic private sector."

Tthe importance of these businesses to the economy as major contributors to employment generation and poverty reduction cannot be overstated, she said.

Citing India as one of TT's longstanding international partners, Gopee-Scoon said TT has strengthened its ties with India through the signature of the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) and a double taxation treaty, signed in 2007 and with an initial duration of ten years. Gopee-Scoon said TT and India have expressed interest in entering into a new BIT.

"Cabinet approval has been obtained and negotiations are expected to commence within the upcoming months."

The renewed BIT, Gopee-Scoon continued, "will be a useful instrument to assure investors of Government’s commitment to promoting a stable, transparent and predictable domestic legislative environment."

She said the double-taxation agreement allows for the removal of tax barriers to facilitate cross-border trade and investment.

While there are six Indian companies operating in TT in various sectors of the economy such as retail and food and beverage, Gopee-Scoon was confident more Indian businesses could be encouraged to invest in TT. Between 2020 and 2021, she said TT enjoyed a trade surplus with India, with exports valued at approximately US$189 million and imports valued at imports from India valued at US$75 million. Gopee-Scoon identified information communication technology (ICT), textiles and garmers as some potential areas for TT-India collaboration.

Indian High Commissioner to TT Arun Kumar Sahu said, "The pandemic has offered great challenges to all big and small economies.

"Today, we are left with no other choice but to find ways to resume international commerce and trade innovatively."

With lives and livelihoods at the centre of global management during the pandemic, Sahu said covid19 continues to teach all nations how interconnected they are and no one is safe until everyone worldwide is safe.

While India's bilateral trade with Caribbean does not appear to be large, Sahu said the actual volume is actually larger because "many Indian goods are imported from neighbouring locations like the USA, Canada, Panama and other places."

As one of the world's largest growing economies, Sahu said, India has a lot to offer the Caribbean. He added that ICT and pharmaceuticals were two sectors in which India and the Caribbean could deepen ties . Sahu said India's expertise in the former is well known.

In the latter, he said, "Every hird drug we take in any part of the world is likely to have been produced in India.

"The pandemic has re-established that India is the global pharmacy.It is the biggest producer of generics."

In agriculture, Sahu said India is in the process of signing a memorandum of understanding with TT for co-operation in this sector and exploring a proposal by Suriname for Indian companies to explore agricultural opportunities there. Cuba is seeking co-operation with India in sugar and food processing.

He said India can also partner with Caribbean countries in renewable energy (specifically wind and solar power) and medical tourism.

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"Gopee-Scoon tells India: Trinidad and Tobago open for investment"

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