T&T’s trade performance has improved, moving from a visible trade balance of $12.5 billion (US$1.84 billion) in 2017 to $19.3 billion (US$2.84 Billion) in 2021.
And with the escalation in commodity prices in 2022, the latest data shows a projected increase in a balance of trade in 2022 to $36 billion (US$5.3 billion), an increase of 86 per cent.
However, the results from trade agreements have been modest, said Finance Minister Colm Imbert as he delivered remarks during the presentation of CAF’s Flagship Report “RED 2021” in the Caribbean titled, “Pathways to Integration: Trade Facilitation, Infrastructure, and Global Value Chains” which was held at the Central Bank.
Over the period 2017 to 2021, for example, this country’s trade balance with the Dominican Republic decreased by 44 per cent, moving from US$71.8 million in 2017 to US$40.0 million in 2021.
Similarly, the country’s trade balance with Costa Rica, over the same period, maintained a negative trade balance with exports increasing marginally by 1.8 per cent from approximately US$10.1 million in 2017 to US$10.2 million in 2021.
These are the two countries with which Caricom has free trade agreements, Imbert said, adding that it is in this light that increasing trade facilitation is critical to the region.
“The advantages of trade facilitation experienced by the business community are vast and trickle down to the citizenry in several, if not all cases,” the Finance Minister said.
Through trade facilitation, he added, the business community profits from lower trade related costs and reduced delays in the delivery of their raw materials, which allows them to better serve their consumers by providing goods on time and at a more economical cost.
Additionally, Imbert said, there is also enhanced competitiveness which forces businesses to maintain and provide goods of the highest quality.
“This benefits the citizenry as high-quality goods are made available to consumers at close to international market prices,” he said.
Moreover, according to the Minister, simplified and modernised trade processes give room for governments to enhance controls, not in terms of imposing trade restrictions but rather through greater awareness on the items transmitted to and through their countries.
“This strengthens national security systems of countries which is especially important in small island states, such as those of the Caribbean, which have experienced rising crime rates due to cracks in outdated customs processes and systems,” Imbert explained.
He described CAF as a multilateral banking institution that has a different approach – agile, flexible and client-oriented – to development finance.
And since completing its incorporation (full membership) process in 2016, T&T received financing from CAF for more than US$1.3 billion to support macroeconomic reforms, infrastructure development, digital transformation, as well as emergency support to face the pandemic.
He noted this country also received valuable technical assistance (US$2 million in non-reimbursable resources) for strategic projects to prevent flooding, improve urban transport and digitalise the tax payment system.
The Finance Minister noted the bank is ready to expand its operations and is willing to offer support to all Caricom nations who may need access to development financing from its new regional hub in Port-of-Spain.