Trinidad’s PM opens Trade and Investment Conference

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Private enterprise will continue to play its indispensable role in social and economic development in the twenty first century. No better way has yet been discovered to generate the wealth and achieve the levels of efficiency and productivity that we need for the prosperity, security and stability of society. It is therefore not surprising that in every country where people have prospered and talents have flowered, private endeavour has been allowed to flourish.

Address by the Honourable Patrick Manning Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago at the formal opening of the Trade And Investment Convention 2010 on Wednesday May, 19, 2010:

I welcome the opportunity to address you at the formal opening of this eleventh annual Trade and Investment Convention, hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association. I congratulate the organizers on this outstanding success. They have demonstrated exemplary dedication to business development in Trinidad and Tobago.

This event is today one of the premier trade and investment conventions in the region. The Government is pleased again to be one of the sponsors of this important event. We congratulate all other organizations who have supported this effort.

The convention certainly continues to expand. This year, there will be representation from 41 countries from around the world, including 6 Latin American countries. I extend a very warm welcome to all overseas visitors and exhibitors for this convention. I wish you a most successful and pleasant stay in Trinidad and Tobago. I say to all participants in the 2010 TIC here today – “Welcome to the Trade and Investment Hub of the Caribbean, the Conference Centre of the Region and, let us not forget that the Economist Magazine once referred to our nation as the Caribbean Tiger”. It is no accident that you are here today at the Hyatt Regency on the Port of Spain Waterfront – since this is where leaders meet.

Last year, as you know, Trinidad and Tobago was host to two major international summits – the Fifth Summit of the Americas, which was attended by 34 Heads of State and Government of the Americas, including President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which was attended by 54 Heads of State and Government of the Commonwealth, including, Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth of England. An integral aspect of both Summits was the coming together of businesspersons from all over the world to establish business relationships and determine trade and investment opportunities.

Let me assure you, Ladies and Gentlemen, that those meetings were not talk shops and that very tangible business opportunities emerged from them. This is because the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has been very aggressive in creating an environment for the development of the business sector and, in particular, the entrepreneurial and small and micro-enterprise sector.

We understand that small businesses play a very big role in job creation and wealth generation for a large segment of our society. And we believe that in our thrust to become a developed nation, our people must be given every opportunity to fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams. Put simply, if you are serious about becoming a successful businessperson, this Government has put every measure in place to ensure your success. Among our many initiatives, is the National Entrepreneurship Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (NEDCO) – a state enterprise which was established to provide the financing, training, guidance, market linkages and other resources for the success of small businesses.

Our Government has also displayed its commitment to the development of private enterprise with the implementation of several initiatives that have proven to impact directly and positively the country’s capacity to produce and to trade competitively. These include:

• incentives to promote investment and production, for example duty concessions, tax exemptions and holidays, loss write-offs, training support and government procurement measures;

• 100% ownership of private companies;

• The Trinidad and Tobago Free Zone Company, established to promote export development and foreign direct investment in a duty-free, tax free and bureaucracy-free business environment; and

• exemptions from duty on capital goods such as machinery and equipment, and on raw materials for several industries including the hotel/tourism sector; Import and Export duties, taxes or licensing requirements; Land and Building Taxes; and work permit application fees, among other related activities.

We have also embarked on a comprehensive effort at economic diversification, supported by the expansion and modernization of the physical infrastructure of Trinidad and Tobago.

A mere cursory glance provides an exciting picture of some of our developmental plans. We will soon have:

• our first aluminum smelter at a cost of approximately US$ 600 million to produce 125,000 metric tonnes of aluminum annually. This development will generate the manufacturing of the great many products for transportation, industrial and household use;

• a gas to polypropylene project, the first such facility in the region. This US $ 2.5 billion plant will produce annually, 450,000 tonnes each of both propylene and polypropylene and therefore establish the foundations of a major plastics industry in our country.

We have also almost completed a US 1.2 petrochemical facility for the production of Melamine and Urea Ammonium Nitrate, for the first time in Trinidad and Tobago. This will generate new industries in a wide
variety of areas.

With these and other strategic industries, we will build a new and dynamic industrial platform in Trinidad and Tobago. This will produce a tremendous variety of products for use in industry, construction, agriculture and agri-business, transportation, health care, and in the household, among others.

Manufacturing will therefore make a quantum leap in expansion in the years ahead. All other sectors including services, retail and construction will have the chance to expand their operations. When this happens, we are assured that greater wealth and exciting possibilities will emerge.

And we are now implementing our transformation plan for Agriculture, moving the sector to Agri-Business for food and nutrition security in Trinidad and Tobago.

We have been delivering a range of services benefiting 19,000 farmers in this country. Our Commercial farms are already a resounding success. Five other commercial farms are at various stages of coming into food production. As a result of our efforts, 2009 was quite a good year for the Sector.

We are also pursuing growth in the information sector. We will soon be opening the Tamana Industrial and Technology Park at Wallerfield. This will be unique in the Caribbean and possibly in the developing world, by offering tenancy in a Science and Technology Park that carries with it state-of-the-art and pioneering technology in ICT Infrastructure and Services.

We also understand that communications and connectivity are critical vertebrae in the backbone of productive business. The Government is therefore working assiduously in the establishment of fibre optics to the curb. This will guarantee the high-speed internet connectivity, which is indispensable to increased productivity and efficiency within the private and public sectors. We will become one of the top ten countries in the world, in this field, when this is accomplished.

Indeed, there is a place for everyone in our economic diversification programme, as our approach is multi-faceted. We are already successfully developing seven new targeted areas. These include Fish and Fish Processing, Yachting, Music and Entertainment, Film, Printing and Packaging, Food and Beverage and Merchant Marine where we will develop a major dry docking facility in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as a shipyard later on for ship repair and ship rebuilding.

The areas of aircraft maintenance and oil platform construction are also being pursued for development and we are proudly constructing our own oil platforms in our major fabrication yard in La Brea.

The most important aspect in all of this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the target range of impact. When the Government of Trinidad and Tobago makes decisions for the development of the trade and investment sector, it is on the basis of our intimate understanding of the inextricable link between Trinidad and Tobago, Latin America and the Caribbean region.

We recognize that our decisions have a very real impact on our regional neighbours and that, if we are to enter into meaningful business relationships and trade partnerships, we must create an environment that engenders the development of the entire region. Indeed, business for one means business for all and as we and our neighbours prosper, lucrative regional markets are created for our own manufacturing sector.

The new strengthened and diversified platform of production of Trinidad and Tobago will spread the opportunity to countries in the region. They would be able, for example, to source products for developing their own manufacturing sector. We are clearly on the path to increased economic integration with our hemisphere. The coming Single Market will further galvanize economic opportunity in the region.

Supportive of this diversified industrial platform, will be our international financial centre, now being established. We are again in the position to learn from the mistakes of others. Therefore as we establish the IFC, we will ensure that the adequate regulatory regime is in place.

We pursue this goal based on realistic assessment. The financial sector already contributes approximately 13.5 percent to the Gross Domestic Product of Trinidad and Tobago. Our country is now the main capital market for the region. We have the dominant regional stock exchange with a number of regional listings. We are also home to the Regional Credit Rating Agency, CariCris from whom we received a triple A rating.

Our ideal location makes the country attractive for international banks and investment firms interested in fostering business in the wider Caribbean and Latin America. Governments and State Corporations in the CARICOM region have been accessing our domestic financial market for bond and bank financing. At the same time, domestic corporate borrowers have also accessed the market to undertake portfolio and other types of investment in CARICOM countries. In fact, the domestic financial system is becoming increasingly regionalized and internationalized.
Supportive of our goal is our Heritage and Stabilization Fund; the establishment of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME); and the establishment of the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority. We therefore think that we must seize the opportunity for Trinidad and Tobago to consolidate its position as the financial capital of the Caribbean.

We are also paying very particular attention to our physical infrastructure. Considerable investment opportunities arise as construction on three major highways commence by October of this year.

Given all that we have been doing, it is not surprising that the global competitiveness of Trinidad and Tobago has further improved for the period 2008-2009. One of the ways by which we seek to increase our global competitiveness is by strategically transforming this country’s productivity outlook. With this in mind the National Productivity Council was established, with the purpose of addressing our national productivity in a manner that would increase our productivity levels, which will naturally lead to increased investments in our national economy, and ultimately produce a better quality of life for our citizens.

We expect that the establishment of a National Productivity Centre, as well as trade initiatives such as the Single Electronic Window to be established in November this year, will serve to exponentially increase our ratings. This, in effect, will demonstrate how seamless it will become to conduct business and trade in T&T, in the very near future.

It is now more than ever that we need to be as creative and positive as possible and I highly commend all participants in this convention for their demonstrated willingness to surmount the challenges and embrace the opportunities of a dynamic global market.

Private enterprise will continue to play its indispensable role in social and economic development in the twenty first century. No better way has yet been discovered to generate the wealth and achieve the levels of efficiency and productivity that we need for the prosperity, security and stability of society. It is therefore not surprising that in every country where people have prospered and talents have flowered, private endeavour has been allowed to flourish.

There must be no suffocation of the spirit of enterprise, the creativity and the competition that are characteristics of the genuine marketplace.

I expect therefore that in the years ahead, this Trade and Investment Convention would continue to grow from strength to strength. I give you the assurance that any Administration that I head will always do its utmost for your expansion. I know that from this effort, business activity will be engendered and that our region as well as the global economy will benefit from the creative entrepreneurial engagement that will take place during this convention.

I am now very pleased to declare, the Eleventh Trade and Investment Convention officially open.

Thank you very much. Best wishes to all.

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