Last week the T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) executed its first physical trade mission in almost two years to Guyana.
The South American country is enjoying an economic boom, as its burgeoning oil and gas industry has started coming into its own, making it an attractive market for new investment.
However, there have been questions raised about the relationship between the countries, based on comments made by prominent figures in both countries.
Despite the running commentary, president of the TTMA Tricia Coosal told the Business Guardian that the mission to Guyana was a success.
Coosal said: “The was seen to be successful on numerous fronts. This mission took 27 companies (comprising over 40 delegates) and represented the food and beverage, printing and packaging, chemicals and construction sectors to Guyana for physical seminars, business to business meetings and site visits.
“Presentations were made by the Guyana Bureau of Standards, Guyana Food and Drugs Division and the Guyana Customs Authority which gave insights into the roles of these agencies doing business in Guyana.”
Coosal said the vast majority of the TTMA’s members were able to secure opportunities for their business operations.
She said: “As a matter of fact, only today we heard of some of our members securing market opportunities for their goods into the Guyanese market, for others there are some great opportunities for investment, joint venture operations and sourcing of material from Guyana. We even had one company that was able to secure goods to be imported from Guyana to T&T such as flour, rice and oil.”
T&T’s lack of diversity has long been criticised, with Guyana’s vice president Bharrat Jagdeo one of the most recent public voices remarking on T&T’s overdependence on the energy sector. The Opposition United National Congress was quick to latch onto his comments, as opposition MP Rodney Charles took to Parliament to question T&T’s efforts to get trade routes established with the emerging economic powerhouse in Caricom.
The TTMA president said, however, based on the discussions held last week, those paths were not only being explored but being traversed as well.
Coosal said, “Several T&T companies have reported signing distribution agreements over the past few days since the conclusion of the mission with buyers met in business to business meetings. These deals will result in exports that begin to bear fruit in the coming weeks and months. Furthermore, a few business deals for future partnerships/ventures are being looked at which came out of both site visits and meetings.”
Coosal added, “It is expected that in the coming weeks, some T&T companies will be returning to Guyana for further discussions and conclusion of negotiations with regard to trade and sales.”
She stressed that despite the comments made, both countries enjoyed a significant trade partnership.
“This country enjoys a healthy economic relationship with Guyana. T&T has been a heavy importer of rice (brown and parboiled) from Guyana over the years; other major items of import from Guyana are sugar, wood items, coconut water and some finished products. T&T exports a lot of our goods into the Guyanese market, with the primary areas being food and beverage and printing and packaging sector. It is anticipated that in the not-too-distant future trade between both countries, especially in the non-energy sector would progress with T&T companies seeking to further grow their trade, investment and sourcing opportunities from Guyana’s very bright and robust market. “
‘T&T a master with the oil and gas industry’
President of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association Rafeek Khan hailed the importance of trade between T&T and Guyana.
“Partnership between both countries that are ideally geographically positioned to work together must realise the crucial role in fostering dialogue, knowledge-sharing and learning between both nations and beyond,” he said.
He added, “Guyana and Trinidad must work together and invest more in strengthening long-term capacity, looking to governments, civil society and the private sector to build collective resilience. One of the most immediate avenues is leveraging off the skills and competencies of Trinidad’s workforce, whether it’s skilled and unskilled labourers or professionals.”
“Let us see how we can commonly build capacity, Trinidad has been a master with the oil and gas industry closest to Guyana. I would love to see how we can build capacity in terms of making business happen.”
He pointed to T&T’s fashion industry as potential avenue into the Guyanese market.
“You have shown the world, your beautiful garments for your Carnival, why not bring that to Guyana? Help us build some capacity in terms of improving our garment industry that has been struggling for decades in fact it is on the verge of collapse. But right there in Trinidad you have some amazing minds of creativity in the garment industry, perhaps outsource some of your garments to Guyana and bring some of our flavour to your Carnival next year,” said the Khan.
Khan, however, downplayed the impact of the local content bill and its effect on potential foreign investment in the South American state, as he noted that several T&T companies had already become so firmly established in Guyana they had already fallen in line with most of the regulations.
“Those companies would have the opportunity to benefit from our local content (bill) because those companies and their products are even sometimes a household name in Guyana. Their employment sometimes exceeds 90 per cent, the management exceeds 75 per cent,” he said.
He however questioned the continued use of non-tariff barriers to limit the trade of certain items between some Caricom states.
‘Manufacturing a significant cog’
On Tuesday, Coosal was re-elected as TTMA president during the association’s annual meeting. She immediately announced intentions to embark on trade missions to Suriname and Florida as well as confirming there would be a physical Trade and Investment Convention (TIC) for the first time in two years.
Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, while addressing the TTMA’s post-meeting webinar, noted the manufacturing sector was seen as a significant cog in the roadmap to recovery.
The minister said: “The manufacturing sector sub-committee in its deliberations, elicited extensive stakeholder input and considered a broad spectrum of policy options for expansion to allow the further export of high-value goods. This was seen as a crucial first step in building much needed economic resilience.
“I am pleased to state that we are well into phase two of the implementation of the Roadmap to Recovery. In this regard, the Government, in collaboration with the private sector, is currently pursuing a number of strategic interventions and initiatives to boost and enhance resilience and growth in business.”
Gopee-Scoon said while the manufacturing sector had shown great resilience and growth in the past year, the government was working to ensure that small and micro enterprises attached to the sector could similarly rebound.