With more than 50 years of strong diplomatic relations, Trinidad and Tobago and the U.S. are two nations that flourish through working together.
More than 42% of Trinidad and Tobago’s $12.86 billion exports now make their way to the United States through commodities including petroleum, liquefied natural gas, steel and sugar. In return, in excess of 33% of its imports come from the U.S. in the form of fuels, lubricants and machinery.
T&T’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran is well aware that the Caribbean nation’s main source of wealth is through its natural resources and says a concerted effort is being made, in collaboration with the U.S., to diversify an economy that almost tripled between 2000 and 2013 through its oil and gas reserves.
“Our economy is integrated with the U.S. economy, especially in the energy sector,” says Mr. Dookeran. “We are still a major supplier of natural gas. Then of course we have the investment of U.S.-based firms in the energy sector here. What we need now is to have a flow of funds into the non-energy sector which would create growth in the economy.”
That diversification can be aided through the benefits of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which was put in place to boost the region’s economic development through duty-free access to the U.S. market for a wide range of goods. “Duty-free access to the U.S. market is a great advantage for our investors here,” says Mr. Dookeran. The initiative has made bilateral ties even stronger and has attracted more than 30 U.S. firms to base offices and operations in T&T.
It is not solely through the exports and imports sector where bilateral relations prosper, however, with the two countries enjoying extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties, as well as agreements on maritime cooperation and tax information exchange. In addition, links to the U.S. come from sharing membership of a number of international organizations, including the United Nations, which T&T joined in the year of its independence, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.
There are close ties through people, too, with around 500,000 Trinidadians and Tobagonians based in, and investing in, the United States, and in turn supporting family in their homeland. Mr. Dookeran is well aware of their potential impact on the economy and is eager to get them involved, saying: “We’ve been pursuing the ‘Diaspora Bond’ to allow our community abroad to invest in these bonds at a below market rate.”
Building on the bonhomie and solid relations between T&T and the U.S. over the past half-century, all indications point toward another 50 years of bilateral success.