TT, DR need to ramp up trade

Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday

TT, DR need to ramp up trade

17 September 2009

Business people in the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago are being urged to aggressively identify and pursue opportunities in each other’s market as the global environment becomes more challenging.

The agreement with the DR was the first trade agreement (FTA) signed by Caricom and it signified a new era in regional trade agreements, Browne said.

The FTA entered into force in 2001 and since that time Trinidad and Tobago’s exports to the DR increased from TT$1 billion in 2001 to TT$2.2 billion in 2007. Exports expanded by 105.5 percent over the period January 2000 to December 2007, he told the forum, noting that a large part of this increase was represented by energy exports: ammonia, steel rods, paper products. Imports from the DR included gravel, concrete, resins, plastic bottles and printing machinery..

Trade Minister Mariano Browne was speaking at the launch of the Trinidad & Tobago/Dominican Republic business forum at the Hilton Trinidad and conference centre.

The goal of the forum was to strengthen commercial and cultural ties between the two countries and to this end, the Trade Ministry in conjunction with the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Trinidad and the TT Chamber have formed a strategic partnership to lay the groundwork for increased trade in both goods and services.

Over the years, the Dominican Republic has had a significant relationship with Caricom and by extension Trinidad and Tobago, in particular since the signing of the Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement in 1998, as well as the Cariforum/EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in October 2008.

The economic relationship between the two countries, he said, was further deepened when Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic, as members of Cariforum, negotiated the EPA with the European Union (EU). The EPA, he pointed out, is a reciprocal agreement which replaces the previous preferential treatment for the region’s goods and services under the Lome Agreement. It also covers issues such as market access, services and investment, trade related issues, legal and institutional issues and development co-operation.

The Regional Preference clause in the EPA, he noted, has now created a mechanism for both our countries to open their markets towards trade in services, which had been covered under the FTA but never fully articulated.

The Dominican Republic is currently ranked as Trinidad and Tobago’s third largest trading partner, after the United States and the European Union. “As strong advocates of free trade, we are both dedicated to enhance the flow of goods and services between both our nations,” Browne said, noting this will increase the revenues generated from trade and contribute to healthier economies.

“While our countries are both classified as small developing nations, together we can explore our strengths and minimise our weakness to meet the challenges of the global economic environment,” he said.

In order to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago is prepared for such strong trade partnerships and can weather global economic challenges, it has implemented a number of diversification initiatives targeting c non-energy sectors for business development : film, seafood industry, food and beverages, among others.

After a record 15 consecutive years of economic growth, he said TT like most countries is experiencing an economic slowdown. “But this is not the time to be timid and to retreat from the development and growth strategy which we have crafted for ourselves,” he said and urged the private sectors of both countries to embrace the opportunities presented in this challenging time.

He told DR trade officials that they chose a most opportune time to strengthen trade ties, to pursue business and trade opportunities and said earlier this year TT received missions from the USA, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. He said TT offered a wealth of opportunity to investors.

“Greater contact among our businesses will pave the way for exploring new opportunities and production models,” he said.

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