Trinidad and Tobago is the most industrialized nation in the Caribbean, with oil and gas reserves being major contributors to the health and growth of its economy. Yet although it is already the manufacturing hub of the region, the government wants to increase its manufacturing base and raise the sector’s contribution to T&T’s GDP.
The government is working hard to increase the country’s attractiveness for foreign direct investment, with the U.S. being its main area of interest.
“We want to develop a knowledge-based economy founded on innovation and competitiveness. Our main priority is to add value to our raw materials by processing them on the islands.”
Minister of Tourism
“Trinidad and Tobago must be a one-stop shop for investment,” says Stephen Cadiz, T&T’s Minister of Tourism and former Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment. “We have built quite a substantial energy-related business in Trinidad. Our oil industry is more than 100 years old, T&T being one of the oldest oil producers in the world. We are also a leading producer of methanol and ammonia and have huge LNG exports. On the other hand, Tobago’s economy is based on tourism and that is the beauty of our country: the mixture of an industrial base and a Caribbean paradise. But we need to do more.”
The government is making changes year on year to diversify the economy as much as possible. Attracting U.S. companies is high on its agenda.
“Oil and gas represents 45% of our GDP but only employs 5% of our working population,” says Mr. Cadiz. “The other 55% of our economy is based on manufacturing, services, and agro-processing industries.
“Our target is to increase our manufacturing base and its contribution to the country’s GDP; we are running at 63% of our capacity and we need to increase that rate by finding new markets outside of CARICOM, like Central America, the Spanish-speaking islands, and the EU.
“We also aim to develop a knowledge-based economy, founded on innovation and competitiveness, to capitalize on our highly educated workforce and attract ICT companies to Trinidad and Tobago. Energy is less expensive here than in other countries and that is a major competitive advantage for us.”
Going forward, Mr. Cadiz emphasizes that there are numerous opportunities awaiting foreign companies in Trinidad and Tobago. “We are looking at the downstream energy sector, especially natural gas producers,” says Mr. Cadiz. “For example, we are interested in creating a plastics industry here.
“Our main priority is to add value to our raw materials by processing them on the islands. For instance, Lake Asphalt currently exports raw asphalt and we would be looking to add value to that product.
“Also, T&T’s cocoa is considered to be the world’s finest. Our cocoa industry is 250 years old but we have never produced chocolate here on a large scale. Rather than just selling the beans, we can add value to those beans and then export them.
“We look at all the different areas and see through the eyes of a foreign investor. If we are able to come into T&T and set up a facility in a short period of time, we are increasing the attractiveness of our country.”