Q: What improvements would the new ‘ease of doing business’ plan currently being reviewed by Parliament make to the country’s investment climate? Do you expect it to be implemented?
A: The efforts by the government to improve the ease of doing business will advance the investment climate by creating the necessary administrative, policy, regulatory and legislative frameworks that reduce costs and enhance efficiency, while ensuring predictability, fairness and transparency across all sectors. The improvements are not required to be placed before Parliament but have been approved by the Cabinet for implementation.
To ensure that Trinidad and Tobago is an attractive investment destination, the government intends to: reduce the time, cost and risk associated with importing and exporting goods and services; strengthen the capacity of the national Single Electronic Window (TTBizLink); build the institutional capacity for tax administration; reduce the costs and timelines as well as increase transparency in the processes associated with acquiring construction permits; facilitate electronic commerce through electronic payments; and create opportunities for firms seeking credit to expand and improve their operations.
Cabinet approved the implementation plan for [these] measures to improve the ease of doing business in April 2017 and agreed that the ministry of trade and industry would coordinate and report on the projects and reforms, which will be driven by several ministries and other public agencies.
Q: Many countries grapple with how to balance being a tourism destination with being seen as a place for business. Are tourism and other FDI sectors mutually exclusive or can they complement each other?
A: Tourism and other FDI sectors are not mutually exclusive. In fact, many countries are promoted as tourism destinations and places for business, and do so by providing the necessary goods and services to meet the unique needs and preferences of visitors.
Trinidad and Tobago is fortunate in that each island has unique features that attract and facilitate specific types of tourists – Trinidad for the visitor seeking to build and maintain business networks, and Tobago for the visitor seeking beautiful beaches and unique flora and fauna. Trinidad is also an attractive destination in terms of its natural beauty and the cultural and creative attributes of its people, including calypso and other indigenous music and the manifestation that is Carnival.
Given the increasingly competitive nature of today’s global economy and the importance of attracting high quality investment, and given Trinidad and Tobago’s circumstances with respect to its dependence on oil and gas revenues, there is an urgent need to diversify within the non-energy sector, including tourism.
The government understands the multifaceted nature of tourism and its complementarity and interconnectedness. To this end, niche areas of interest include: business tourism and event/festival tourism, which comprise cultural, music, sport tourism and ecotourism.
Q: To what extent does the trade protectionism espoused by the Trump administration worry you? Do you expect any impact on Trinidad and Tobago?
A: Trinidad and Tobago has had long-standing diplomatic and economic relations with the US. It is Trinidad and Tobago’s largest trading partner and continues to be one of the top origins of FDI.
As has been espoused thus far to date, the guiding principle of US trade policy under the new administration is to “expand trade in a way that is freer and fairer for all Americans”. The emphasis on the American people and economy is not a zero-sum approach to trade, and will inevitably benefit the majority of countries with whom the US trades, including Trinidad and Tobago.
Through the multilateral and bilateral apparatus, the government of Trinidad and Tobago looks forward to continued engagement with the US with the prime interest of benefiting the economies and people of connected countries.
 2017 Trade Policy Agenda and 2016 Annual Report. https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/reports/2017/AnnualReport/AnnualReport2017.pdf
Trinidad & Tobago
Senator and minister of trade and industry
Minister of foreign affairs; various managerial positions in banks