Local News

Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago gives special address at Commonwealth Business Forum

PERTH,Austrailia – Special address by The Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago at the opening ceremony of The Commonwealth Business Forum in Perth, Australia under the theme: ‘Partnering For Global Growth –
The Commonwealth, Indian Ocean And The Pacific RIM’.

It is also a privilege for me to address you as outgoing Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth. The convening of this Commonwealth Business Forum provides us all with an opportunity to further strengthen and solidify our existing partnerships and to create new ones as we face the challenges that are before us.

It is an opportunity not to be missed as we seek, through our dialogue and collaboration, to achieve the objectives of stimulating and encouraging trade, investment and growth within the Commonwealth and the wider global community.

Need for Partnerships

Ladies and gentlemen, in my respectful view, without such partnerships there cannot be any meaningful or sustained economic growth. If we are to confront and overcome the challenges that we face as Member States of the Commonwealth and as nations of the world, then partnerships are the order of the day.

My own government consists of a partnership of five political parties and a broad range of interests. Thinking in terms of partnerships, has now become for me, something of a habit of mind.

It is imperative that leaders of governments form such partnerships among themselves and with the business community. It is equally important that businesses form strategic partnerships among themselves as well. In my own country we are seeking to forge a wider partnership between government, labour, civil society and business and to strengthen such bonds of partnership. We view this as the way forward for our country and the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, national, regional, and international concerns dictate no less from all of us! This global pond in which we operate offers us two (2) clear options:

Either we try to go it alone and we sink or

We embrace the opportunity to swim together as partners

[Reflection on experience on coalition government]

Value of the Business Forum

As such, I wish to sincerely congratulate and thank the Commonwealth Business Council, the Government of Australia, and other eminent stakeholders for convening this Business Forum.

In bringing together this very distinguished group of persons, I am confident that the ensuing deliberations and actions will result in increased trade and investments among willing partners and allies.

I am equally confident that, as a consequence, this will redound to the benefit and improvement of the quality of life of all citizens of the Commonwealth in particular and the wider global community in general.

T&T as a Gateway to the Americas

I am pleased to inform this gathering that over the past two years efforts aimed at collaborating, cooperating, and the forming of partnerships between Latin America and the Caribbean region have taken place and have borne fruit.

We still have a long way to go but I have no doubt that we will continue to make significant progress through the coming years as we develop strategies to ensure mutual sustained growth in the short, medium, and long term.

Thanks to our geographical location, Trinidad and Tobago provides that crucial link – that veritable bridge as it were – for businesses wishing to enter the Latin and North American. We have good relations and are expanding trade with the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Brasil, as we do with the USA and Canada.

I encourage my fellow Member States to capitalize on these existing trade agreements which Trinidad and Tobago has successfully concluded with various other countries within Central and South America.

In this way, I hope to see Trinidad and Tobago forming strategic partnerships with other Commonwealth countries, acting as a veritable gateway to the Americas.

Caribbean Investment Forum

This very ambition was the theme of the first Caribbean Investment Forum, arranged through the kind collaboration between the Commonwealth Business Council and my Ministry of Trade and Industry, held in June of this year in our capital city, Port of Spain.

The theme of that Forum was “Partnering with Trinidad and Tobago to create a Gateway between the Commonwealth and the Americas”.

The aim of this Forum was to provide opportunities for the Caribbean region to attract investments and business opportunities from local, regional, and international companies within the Commonwealth and the wider global business community.

As the Commonwealth’s Chair-in-Office, and a leader of my government, I saw this as a valuable tool and catalyst through which the Commonwealth’s efforts towards achieving necessary and effective partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Government Policy

For us we see government not as a competitor with the business community but rather a facilitator of business ventures. We have created an environment that is enabling, friendly, responsive, and less bureaucratic to new businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs.

We recognize the critical roles that the private and business sectors play in the social and economic development of any nation and we are committed to our partnerships with them.

Experience in the Energy Industry

Although we are small in size, Trinidad and Tobago has over one hundred years of experience in the oil industry.

Over these years we have partnered with major global players in the oil and gas industry and we are host to some of the world’s largest energy-based investments and some the world’s largest companies in this field.

Since 2002, Trinidad and Tobago has been the largest single supplier of Liquefied Natural Gas to the United States of America– (worth approximately 5 billion dollars) providing two-thirds of all LNG imported to the USA and we are recognized as the fifth (5th) largest exporter of LNG in the world.

Apart from the USA, we export LNG to other countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom (UK), Argentina, Spain, and South Korea.

I would say, not bad for a small country…wouldn’t you say so?

As Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, I give you my government’s commitment to partner with and provide assistance and expertise to Commonwealth Member States within their oil and gas sectors.

At the same time I extend an open invitation to companies here to enter into a business partnership with us in Trinidad and Tobago.

Government Investment Platform

Earlier this month, my Minister of Finance presented the National Budget for 2012 in Parliament, stated that “our strategy is to generate new investments, re-energize the energy sector, facilitate private sector investments and encourage new financing for private/public sector initiatives”.

In fact, ladies and gentlemen, my government’s 2012/2014 Investment Platform for Trinidad and Tobago is predicated on new investments in:

Traditional Energy

Downstream Industries

Alternative and Renewable Energy

Maritime Economy

Urban Development


ICT Platforms

Capital Market Development

Creative Industries

Promoting business competitiveness and


Our Medium Term Policy Framework (2011 to 2014) speaks to Innovation for Lasting Prosperity and focuses on diversification downstream in the energy and in new high value areas in the range of opportunities mentioned.

T&T as a Place to do Business

As I close, I wish to add that the ease of financial transactions is absolutely essential for the efficient conduct of business.

As such, I am pleased to say that in Trinidad and Tobago we have strong financial institutions and the government is committed in ensuring proper regulation of the sector.

We are an attractive destination for trade and investment and new business opportunities.

Indeed Trinidad and Tobago – and the rest of the Caribbean region – boasts of a respect for the rule of law, our democratic traditions, for workers, human rights, the environment, and ethical practices.

All of these, among other things, provide the necessary environment that is conducive to trade and investment opportunities.

We are, as they say, Trinidad and Tobago “Open for Business” and we welcome you to do business with us.

Intra-Commonwealth Trade & Cooperation

It is worthwhile to mention ladies and gentlemen that intra-Commonwealth trade increased from US$2 trillion in 1997 to US$3.5 trillion in 2010. This is a remarkable achievement and the Commonwealth Business Council must be congratulated for its role in contributing to the expansion of trade and investment within the Commonwealth.

Also noteworthy ladies and gentlemen is the fact that the Commonwealth accounts for one- fifth of all world trade.

As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, we are a force to be reckoned with, and together as an economic bloc and through our partnerships, I respectfully submit that we can and must have a much stronger and larger voice and role on the international stage.

Intergovernmental Solidarity and Facilitation of Intra-Commonwealth Trade

Even as we seek to encourage increased intra-Commonwealth trade and investment, we must, at the same time, seriously revisit the barriers that prevent us from accessing the various markets that provide many opportunities for such trade and investment.

This process calls for a concerted effort on the part of various governments and will demand very serious negotiations. If we are to move forward together as a Commonwealth family, then no sibling must be left behind or left to feed from the scraps that fall from the table!

We must link arms and hold fast in our resolve to treat with, and overcome the global challenges that face us as a Commonwealth family. Remember, we can either sink alone or swim together!

Ladies and gentlemen, when we promote trade and investment, the inevitable outcome is shared prosperity.

Growth and development of all Member States of the Commonwealth can only be realized if, and only if, there is a significant and sustained increase in trade and investment.

Let us then, ladies and gentlemen, be firm in our resolve and commitment to consolidate and solidify our global economic partnerships and create the necessary and critical linkages across key sectors of our economies within the Commonwealth – a re-energized and stronger Commonwealth family – for a bigger, better and brighter future.

I thank you. May God continue to bless our nations, may god continue to bless each and every one of you.

Related Articles

Back to top button