The following is an official press release from the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association.
President of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association Tricia Coosal believes that the Government is headed in the right direction thus far in its fight against illicit trade. In response to the various media articles, she said, “The TTMA is cognisant of the various seizures of items by the different regulatory and law enforcement agencies during the past few months, which demonstrates to the local manufacturing community that the Government is serious about reducing the prevalence of illicit trade”. These items include alcohol, cigarettes, footwear, wrapping paper, inhalers, electronics, illicit drugs and cash. Kudos must be given to the Multi-Agency Task Force, which is led by ACP Haynes of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and comprises key members of the Customs and Excise Division, the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division, and the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards. Additionally, the creation of the Anti-Illicit Trade Task Force (AITTF) and its various Working Groups signals to the private sector that there would be meaningful interventions to address this scourge on society.
However, manufacturers still believe that there are other activities which must be employed by the Government to effectively tackle illicit trade. Specifically, manufacturers are hoping for the successful implementation of measures prescribed in the Government’s National Action Plan, including:
Strengthening the capacity of Ministries and enforcement agencies to combat illicit trade – Continuous training of enforcement officials is important. As the methods for conducting illicit trade continue to evolve, so too should the knowledge and infrastructure of the various regulatory agencies, including the use of reference pricing. Reference pricing provides the authorities with a benchmark price by which to gauge whether a product is entering the market at the market price, or at a below-market price. A below-market price would strongly suggest illicit trade.
Promoting public-private partnerships towards fighting illicit trade – TTMA firmly believes that the fight against illicit trade can be won if both Government and private sector work together to address the issue.
Increasing public awareness of illicit trade and the associated dangers – The Government’s proposed public awareness campaign would help curb the demand for these products by consumers.
Furthermore, the Association asserts that the following activities should be considered by the Government:
Free Trade Zone reform – Several organisations including the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), the OECD, and the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) have developed recommendations to ensure that free trade zones do not act as havens for illicit trade. TTMA recommends that the Government reviews and adopt the recommendations from these agencies.
Review of Fiscal Policy – An inappropriate taxation regime would result in the creation of parallel markets for legitimate goods. Increased taxes have provided an incentive for persons to smuggle goods and to sell those at a lower selling price.
Prosecution of Criminals – Successful prosecution of the persons involved in these acts would serve as a deterrent to potential importers and consumers of these items.
Robust Border Controls – Attention must be placed to ensuring that illicit trade is stopped at the border, since these products tend to be smuggled in via legal and illegal ports of entry. Increased monitoring by the authorities and effective detection of illicit trade is important.
In closing, Ms. Coosal indicated that the TTMA supports the fight against illicit trade, and would continue to do its part to reducing the prevalence of illicit trade in Trinidad and Tobago.