The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago elected its new President at its Annual General Meeting at the Hilton Trinidad Conference on Thursday 11th May 2017. The fourteenth President, Mitchell De Silva is currently the Regional Vice President - Corporate Banking - RBC Merchant Bank (Caribbean) Limited, and has been an active participant in AMCHAM T&T for the past decade.
In his inaugural address he underscored the immediate need for the “Private Sector to take up the challenge to cede from the Government the position of being the main driver of our economy.”
He informed the two hundred plus crowd at the AGM, that high on AMCHAM T&T’s advocacy agenda was the intention to “press the Government to adopt fiscal rules.” He maintained that the implementation of codified and legislated fiscal rules is a necessary step to follow if the Procurement legislation is to be effective, as the two will work in tandem. He explained that “one, broadly speaking, is designed to ensure efficiency in expenditure and the other is intended to preserve or, one might say establish a strong correlation between what we spend and what we earn. Fiscal rules and Procurement are not a panacea for what ails us, but they form the basis for creating a more accountable and responsible form of Governance, not only at the political level but across the entire society.”
On the topic of labour, he noted that the “already tense relationship between business and labour is more likely to deteriorate than it is to improve.” To this he advised that both sides should “unclench their fists and extend their hands” and seek instead to bridge the divide. He added:
“I recognize that a degree of tension between the forces is necessary and a requisite for a healthy industrial relations climate, but what I do believe and what I do foresee, is that to continue as is will only lead to a further fracturing of our society. Now is not a time for unyielding commitment to ideology but to find new ideology to fit our reality. I am not advocating that we abandon our core principles but that, as we discuss the future, we incorporate these into a shared sense of purpose for the benefit of all. We have no choice but to search for a better way. In this regard, it is my hope that
the unions will see it fit to return National Tripartite Advisory Council and that Government Business and Labour come together on some key initiatives to drive our socio-economic recovery.”
There was also a few changes to the AMCHAM T&T Board of Directors and sees Dominic Rampersad, President Pheonix Park Gas Processors Ltd. as the vacant VP spot. The list of Directors are as follows:
President – Mitchell De Silva, RBC
Vice President - Catalina Herrera, Citi
Vice President - Dominic Rampersad, PPGPL
Secretary - Glenn Hamel-Smith, Hamel-Smith & Co.
Treasurer - Patricia Ghany, Esau Oilfield Supplies Limited
Other Directors to the Board are: Ravi Suryadevara, TRINVALCO; Hugh Howard, Hugh Howard & Associates; Simon Aqui, IBM; Nicholas Galt, TSL; Frances Correia, Microsoft; Sana Ragbir, First Citizens; Giselle Thompson, bpTT; Jason George, United Airlines; Gayle Pazos, Scotiabank; Ravi Bajaj, Chevron and Erojus Joseph, GE Oil & Gas.
Mitchell De Silva, President AMCHAM T&T
I begin my inaugural speech to you by expressing sincere thanks and appreciation to the Board of Directors of AMCHAM T&T and you, the membership, for having the confidence in me to lead this organization. That said it would be remiss of me to not also acknowledge the many persons and experiences within different organizations that have led me to this latest adventure. My parents, wife, family, friends the Fatima Old Boys Association, colleagues across three financial institutions, Citi, Scotia and RBC, all of whom and which afforded me guidance, encouragement and key learnings. I owe you all a deep sense of gratitude and it is my hope that my performance in this office will fully reflect all that you have instilled in me.
I have been actively involved with AMCHAM T&T for quite a few years, with this being my second and longest stint. Over the years I have seen the organization steadfastly represent you the membership on many different fronts, whether it be regional, hemispheric or domestic our voice has been raised and our presence felt. Testimony to that is evidenced by the fact that our very own former President Nicholas Galt, held the post of Chairman for our regional body, AACCLA, and our immediate Past President Ravi Suryadevara now serves on its Board. I highlight this, not only out of pride and admiration for these distinguished gentlemen, but to emphasize the point that the lobby voice of this Chamber has a depth and breadth to it that few, if any, can lay claim to. All of your past Presidents have been persons who excelled in their respective fields, where they served and in most instances continue to serve with distinction.
Priority 1 - Diversity
This brings me to what I view as one of my priorities as I assume the Presidency, as I look back at previous holders of this office, there appears to be only one instance where a woman was at the helm. In keeping with one of the key goals of the United Nations on Sustainable Development, the organisation’s philosophy and indeed, my own personal beliefs, it is my hope that when I demit office that the Board and you the membership will see it fit to transition the leadership of this Chamber to one of the eminently qualified women who serve on our Board. Like the Presidents of the past, the women on our Board are leaders in their respective fields and are capable and competent as any to assume the Presidency. Forgive this seeming digression as it may seem odd to speak of leaving office when I have just assumed it, but I see this as a priority and a natural fit in the context of the Women in Leadership event that we have successfully hosted for a number of years. AMCHAM T&T must be a standard bearer and an exemplar in evidencing the diversity we promote and while we have achieved same at a Board level the time has come for us to take the next step.
Priority 2- Continued advocacy
As I have highlighted above, we will continue to remain relevant in conversations that affect you the membership, that said, and as another critical priority for my time in office I intend to continue the heightened engagement with Government and critical stakeholders in our economy that characterized Ravi’s Presidency. Our views must and will continue to be tethered to logic, sound judgement and reasoned objectivity. It is only with these values will we remain credible in the eyes of those whom we seek to sway as we work on influencing how as a country we navigate these most turbulent times.
Successive credit downgrades, one firmly entrenched in junk status, rampant violent crime, an untenable Fx situation and a widening of the divide between labour and business together with multiple other threats to our country and wellbeing must be boldly tackled and remedied with urgency.
AMCHAM T&T’s push, as part of the Private Sector / Civil Society Group’s initiative, for the operationalizing of Procurement legislation and the bringing into effect and staffing of the office of the Procurement Regulator is one of a series of critical steps that we believe assists in treating with some of the issues mentioned above. This legislation, once appropriately brought into force, has the potential to radically change the expenditure patterns of the State and significantly improve accountability and oversight on Public spend. Achieving this objective should allow for more efficiency and transparency, thereby limiting instances of artificially inflated project costs and questionable disposal of State assets.
Indeed, the passage and implementation of adequate public procurement legislation is critical to reducing a significant portion of white collar crime.
Our unfortunate reality today is that the surge in crime is evident at all levels, from corruption to widespread violence. Talk of the death penalty and a need for swift justice and a reboot of our judicial and penal systems are spoken of daily. The latter points are indeed needed, however seemingly absent from the national conversation is a focus on what brought us to this juncture and what is required to move us back from it. If we agree the view of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, in their book Freakonomics, we would have to concede that the solution to our current problems will not happen overnight. In their analysis of crime riddled New York of the 1970s and 80s and its seeming return to sanity in the 1990s and early 2000s, they do not attribute the resurgence to then Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but rather to a series of policies and steps taken in the years and decades before that culminated in the significant reduction in crime levels and criminality. Yes, the leadership at the time was in fact a major contributor to the improvements noted, but it was not solely their doing rather a collaborative effort that took years. We need this type of long term vision and planning in our country, the patience to persevere and the will to have seemingly small changes take root. Let me be clear the need for immediate firm action is necessary, but more arrests and prosecutions will not stem the problem on their own, we need a more holistic approach to an issue that is out of control.
Clearly, the problems that confront us are many and our desire for rapid change and course correction is significant. Years of seeming indifference, buoyed by unprecedented growth in our energy sector, as we all well know, masked the inefficiencies and shortcomings of our institutions, systems and tragically undermined our productivity as a people. The entitlement mentality is pervasive across our society, not only at the level of labour, where a day’s pay is exchanged for three hours of work, but even in the very private sector that we hold in such high esteem. Far too often we as a sector cry out to the Government to solve our problems as opposed to creating the solutions on our own. A difficult task yes, impossible, no. I know this point may be difficult to accept, but in this current crisis the Private Sector must take up the challenge to cede from the Government the position of being the main driver of our economy. Again, this will be incremental, as it is foolhardy to believe that we will become the main driver in the short term. In the immediate term however, we must engage the Government in adopting and accepting that its main role in the economy is not that of actor, but rather facilitator. As President of AMCHAM T&T, I recommit the organisation to this process and I appeal to the Government to engage meaningfully as it is only through real collaboration that we can return our country to growth.
As I mentioned previously we see Procurement Legislation and its being brought into effect as an apt example of our efforts to get Government to embrace its role as facilitator. Sadly, we have not achieved complete implementation of the legislation, nor is its roll out occurring as contemplated and advised by the civil society group, nevertheless we continue to press on multiple fronts to have this landmark piece of legislation enacted and operationalized in the best interest of all concerned.
Our efforts will not stop at Procurement as we intend to press the Government to adopt fiscal rules, as many countries have done, Grenada and Jamaica being two regional examples. We see implementation of codified and legislated fiscal rules as a necessary step to follow from Procurement as the two will work in tandem. One, broadly speaking, designed to ensure efficiency in expenditure and the other intended to preserve or one might say establish a strong correlation between what we spend and what we earn. Fiscal rules and Procurement are not a panacea for what ails us, but they form the basis for creating a more accountable and responsible form of Governance, not only at the political level but across the entire society.
Priority 3- Enhanced relationship with labour
In the crisis that we face as country today, the already tense relationship between business and labour is more likely to deteriorate than it is to improve. That is of course, if we both continue to wed ourselves to our seemingly entrenched positions. In my view it is time to change how we engage with labour, as Barack Obama noted in his inaugural speech in 2008,
“…if you unclench your fist, we will extend our hand…” that statement rings true on both sides. If we are true to ourselves we will see that our fists, on key issues, are just as tightly clenched as we view labour’s on matters of importance to us. The question that has vexed and plagued many before me, is how do we bridge the divide. I recognize that a degree of tension between the forces is necessary and a requisite for a healthy industrial relations climate, but what I do believe and what I do foresee, is that to continue as is will only lead to a further fracturing of our society.
Now is not a time for unyielding commitment to ideology but to find new ideology to fit our reality. I am not advocating that we abandon our core principles but that, as we discuss the future, we incorporate these into a shared sense of purpose for the benefit of all. We have no choice but to search for a better way. In this regard, it is my hope that the unions will see it fit to return National Tripartite Advisory Council and that Government Business and Labour come together on some key initiatives to drive our socio-economic recovery.
Assuming office in the year that marks AMCHAM T&T’s 25th anniversary as a Chamber, coming in after so many Presidents who have provided invaluable service to the Chamber and by extension to you the membership; at a juncture where our economy is delicately balanced on a razor’s edge; is daunting to say the least. All that said and acknowledged I take up this challenge with full confidence in the capacity that has been built in the Chamber over those many years:
All of these reasons clearly say to me that I am not alone, the support, guidance and counsel that all I have mentioned above will remain and I will rely on them to ensure that I execute on this critical mandate in keeping with those that have gone before me.
In closing permit me to especially recognize our outgoing President, Ravi Suryadevara, those of you who would have had the privilege of interacting with Ravi I am sure, like me are the better for it. Ravi, your commitment, passion and dedication to the Chamber and your values as an individual are not only worthy of praise but emulation; on behalf of the membership and the Board I thank you and more importantly, I salute you.
Dignitaries, members, Media, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.
It is such a pleasure to be here this morning as we acknowledge and congratulate the efforts of everyone who participated in this year’s National Youth Productivity Forum.
As I approach the end of my Presidency at AMCHAM T&T, I have begun to experience a bit of nostalgia. I distinctly remember nine years ago when the Trade and Investment Committee resolved that creating a better economic future for our country meant taking an active role in investing in the youth of our nation. The trigger for this was the Business Future of the Americas Conference hosted by AMCHAM T&T in 2008, where as part of our youth development initiative, students from sixth forms were invited to attend and gain a ‘new’ experience. We decided to create a space where students could express their ideas and be introduced to new concepts and critical thinking skills.
We knew that this interaction would inspire an innovative way of thinking and impart upon students the importance of seeing beyond the moment, seeing beyond just one issue, and instead looking for holistic and long-term solutions. This was the genesis of the National Youth Productivity Forum, the NYPF. To the students of this year’s iteration, I hope you have been challenged and you can now envision a world of possibilities beyond of what you were told existed.
This generation more than any other can relate to the idea put forward by The New York Times, American journalist and three-time Pulitzer winner, Thomas Friedman. He posited that we are living in an era where there are three massive accelerations in tandem:
· Environmental issues, especially global warming (new SDGs)
· Globalization (hyper-interconnectivity), and
· Technology (the great equalizer and disruptor).
He advised that we should focus on these three accelerations if we wanted to be relevant in the future. We at AMCHAM T&T are in agreement with this position.
Technology is integrated into every aspect of our daily lives. Today, it almost seems as though babies are born with a bottle in one hand and a smartphone in the other. We have the obvious examples of the internet of everything and communications, but it is so much more. Medical innovations such as 3-d printing and genetic coding, artificial intelligence, and commercial space travel are amongst the countless other examples that exist. From time to time, I am sure you hear your parents and teachers say “when I was your age we didn’t have all this smart this and smart that…..” or maybe you have heard “kids have it so easy, when I was young we didn’t have google, we had to walk ten miles to the library and try to find an encyclopedia…..” To many it may seem that young people today have it “so much easier”. But do they really?
While technology offers many advantages, it also leads to a certain level of uncertainty. With disruptive technologies, and the rapid rate of innovation, no one can really predict what the future will look like. Moreover, with this is mind I ask this question. “Can we (the older generation), who have not lived with and experienced technology as these young people have, adequately prepare them for a future where technology will play an increase larger role in their daily lives?
This is why we chose this year’s theme – “Re-engineering Education: How our education system needs to be re-engineered to keep up with the modern world and improved productivity.”
I believe that because this generation lives in such an interconnected world, and they have the advantage of understanding the concept of a global community, whether social or business. They can appreciate the idea that a ripple in the pond in one place can have a magnanimous effect thousands of miles away.
These accelerations are not just something we learn about but it is something that we live and we believe that this should be the foundational focus of solving our present challenges, as well as a part in shaping our future.
And whether we accept it or not, the actions of the present adults are shaping the future that you will inherit. Is the education system structured in a way to truly prepare you for the future you will inherit? Are you prepared for the jobs that may or may not exist? And then how will you, in turn, shape the future for the generation that succeeds you?
This year’s theme is meant to ingrain the notion that the seeds which we plant today in the form of ideas and actions influence what we will reap tomorrow. We also realize that the persons most impacted by the school curriculum, the students, do not have a hand in planning it.
Education is the basis of everything; it is up to you to decide the priority it is given in your life. Decide what and who you want to be, and where you will place your focus. Decide to plan, pursue and persist. I must warn you however, that in your pursuit of success you will make mistakes and you will fail. Do not let this deter you as you will also learn that failure is a part of success. There is no successful person, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg who has not experienced failure in some form at some time in their journey.
Another lesson you will learn is that you cannot do it alone. This is one of the reasons we have team discussions and not individual debates. It is through collaboration and this team effort that we overcome our greatest challenges.
I encourage you to dream. Dream big, but know that there must be action. Don’t be bogged down by the cynicism of society or your past experiences. Instead, seek to marry your knowledge with those experiences so that you can orchestrate the future you desire. Let those life experiences teach you the importance tolerance, persistence, and courage as disciplined principles to be maintained at all times, in all that we do.
During my time as President, I sought to build on the great leadership that came before me. I cannot say that this has been an easy journey, but it has definitely been a rewarding one. It is one of the great distinctions in my life that I will cherish. I can truly say that I am a testament that AMCHAM T&T is committed to building and promoting leadership. This is why this program has been so important to us, and we continue to be grateful for the support we have received. To His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, we thank you for being the patron of the program. I must mention how much I admire that each year you take the time to greet and speak with all of the NYPF students. To the Ministers of Education, the Ministry of Education, thank you for continuing to partner with AMCHAM T&T in ensuring this endeavour continues, and continues successfully.
I would also like to thank the corporate entities such as First Citizens, Massy Technologies, UTT and others, whose support enable us to continue with this program.
I would like to congratulate this year’s winners: Belmont Secondary School, who are first-time entrants, Presentation College, Cowen Hamilton Secondary School, Queen’s Royal College, Woodbrook Secondary School and The First Goodwood Scout Group from Tobago. To the teachers and the parents, we offer a heartfelt thank you. We know it is no easy feat to find the time in a world full of commitments, but we hope that you can see for yourself the growth in the students and we look forward to your continued support as we look ahead to next year. I also hope that this experience has made a meaningful and indelible impact on your perspective on what you that these students can offer the world.
In closing, I would like to take the time to express my gratitude to a variety of persons who has helped me during my term in office at AMCHAM T& - the Board, the Officers of the Board, the CEO, the team at the Secretariat, and our valued members. It has been said that we should never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. This group of people, known as AMCHAM T&T, is committed to service, exhibiting a will to succeed, and to ensure that this organisation excels in any arena we are placed in.
To all students, the future leaders of our great country, as Peter Drucker said, “Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but the future of present decisions”. You are the future in and of our decisions. Make it count.
For the privilege of your attention, I thank you.
In a recent paper analysing data available for 70,000 publicly listed companies worldwide, when it came to Caribbean companies, it reported that an average of 18% of board members and 29% of executives are women. Furthermore, according to the latest World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, there still remains a gender gap of 22% for executive level positions and a wage equality gender gap of 36% in Trinidad and Tobago. This data coupled with the under-representation of women in certain fields in the country has been the impetus for the creation of a mentorship program targeted at mid to senior-level professional women who hold great potential for leadership.
This mentorship program will seek to pair mentees with senior regional/international professionals within their respective fields. The main objectives of the program will be to: 1) facilitate meaningful professional relationships where both mentors and mentees benefit from mutual knowledge-sharing and engagement; and 2) provide mentees with the necessary guidance in their respective fields that can aid in their career progression to a more senior-level. The program will be done on a phased approach with the first phase being open to a very limited pool of applicants and the program itself will run for six months.
The pilot project will target women in AMCHAM T&T member companies who are involved in the fields of:
Economics (2 persons)
Science and Technology (1 person)
Information and Technology (2 persons)
The application period runs from Thursday 13th April, 2017 to Wednesday 10th May 2017.
To be eligible, the applicants must be an employee of an AMCHAM T&T member company. They must submit a completed Mentee application form, their CV, and two professional recommendations. Prospective mentees must ensure that they have sufficient time needed to fully take advantage of the opportunity during the six month period, as they are expected to actively participate in agreed upon mentoring activities. It is recommended that you meet with your mentor at least once every one or two weeks. However, the frequency and method of communication will be determined by the mentor and mentee.
Candidates will be shortlisted by Thursday 25th May, 2017. The shortlisted candidates will then be required to participate in a brief interview. The final selection will be announced on Monday 12th June 2017.
You can download the application form below, and application should be emailed to email@example.com. For further information please contact 622-4466 ext.228
Mentee Application Form
 Abrahams, Scott, Luca Flabbi and Claudia Piras. 2016. Female Corporate Leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean Region: Representation and Firm-Level Outcomes. Working Paper No. IDB-WP-655. Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank.
 World Economic Forum. 2016. The Global Gender Gap Report: 2016.
“The time is ripe to see more women in leadership positions in the ICT sector.” This was the sentiment expressed by Nuria Simo, Chief Information Officer, and General Manager Department of Information Technology of the IDB, during her visit to AMCHAM T&T, on Thursday 13th April 2017. Following her meeting with senior female ICT executives of AMCHAM T&T’s member companies, the business organisation and the IDB launched their Women in Leadership Mentorship Program. Addressing the group of leading women in the field of Information Technology she led the discussion on the challenges that she and many other women face when navigating the ladder of success. “We need role models for girls and young women to see that it is possible to be successful in senior ICT positions.”
The mentorship program which will be done in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank seeks to pair five (5) mentees with senior regional professionals in the fields of Science, Information Technology, and Economics. The mentors were selected from the IDB’s vast network of professionals.
An organisation which is known for its unapologetic stance on gender parity in the workplace, AMCHAM T&T’s CEO Nirad Tewarie stated that “this initiative is an extension of the theme of our recently concluded Women’s Leadership Seminar held in February #Be Bold For Change. We are ensuring that we make a conscious effort to not only add to the discussion but to be part of the solution.” He also added, “We are fully committed to seeing this through along with our partner the IDB, and it is our hope that this pilot project can serve as a template that other business service organisations can adopt and that we can expand.” Carina Cockburn, Chief of Operations for the local IDB office, echoed this sentiment and reiterated the IDB’s position that promoting gender equality is pivotal to its goal of accelerating the process of economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean
While applicants can only be selected from AMCHAM T&T membership base, it is important to note that AMCHAM T&T’s diverse membership covers all sectors of business.
For more information on the program, please visit here.
AMCHAM T&T DISMAYED BY POLITICAL WRANGLING OVER CRITICAL FATCA LEGISLATION
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) is deeply disappointed by the continued political wrangling that is contributing to the delay of the passage of the critical legislation governing the implementation of Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). While we believe that debate is the trademark of a healthy democracy, we assert that this should not occur at the expense of best interest of the country. Our elected leaders are entrusted by the citizenry to always put country first and to rise above the myopic political tactics that could cripple our financial institutions and be detrimental to our ability to do business with the rest of the world.
AMCHAM T&T has been very vocal on this issue and our views remain unchanged. We believe that there is no need for a Joint Select Committee to be set up to review the Tax Information Exchange Bill. The minor amendments which may now be desired can be made without going to a JSC, which will unnecessarily delay the passage of the legislation within the timeline which T&T itself provided to the Government of the United States of America. Non-compliance by the stipulated deadline could pose a major challenge for operations within financial institutions and in turn gravely affect our ability to do business with the rest of the world. This will also adversely affect our trade relationship with the U.S., who is still a major trading partner T&T.
We urge all legislators, in particular the Opposition, to let good sense prevail, and commit to passing the legislation forthwith. We also take this opportunity to point out that co-operation between the Government and Opposition will be required over the next few months to ensure that our country meets its Caribbean Financial Action Task Force commitments to credibly show that we are committed to fighting money laundering, the financing of terrorism and other financial crimes.
We trust that our elected leaders will put politics aside to ensure that the interests of Trinidad and Tobago come first.
AMCHAM T&T ADVOCATES FOR PASSAGE OF FATCA LEGISLATION
The American Chamber of Commerce of T&T (AMCHAM T&T) strongly urges the Government and Opposition to work together to ensure the passage of the Tax Information Exchange Bill 2016 (commonly referred to as the FATCA legislation) by the deadline date of September 30th, 2016.
We are of the view that our country is on the brink of being demoted to the periphery of the global financial system largely due to inaction on the part of politicians on both sides of the political divide. This is a crisis manufactured by politics to the detriment of the national interest. The former Government had ample opportunity to pass this legislation during its tenure, and the current Government has also had more than a year to ensure that this important piece of legislation was properly vetted, reviewed and passed.
We are mindful that there has been limited, if any, consultation with stakeholders on the legislation which is currently before the House. However, AMCHAM T&T is of the view that there is still enough time for both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament to complete deliberations on the Bill and to ensure its passage before the 30th September 2016 deadline. The foregoing is critical since there has as yet been no indication that an extension of time is being contemplated by the U.S. Government.
Should this Bill not be passed by the deadline, the costs of participating in the international financial system can be impacted and ultimately, a possible loss of correspondent bank relationships could occur if this and other obligations are not met which could, in turn, lead to difficulties in conducting, for example, credit card transactions and wire transfers. This would mean that everything from buying goods or services online, to transferring money to pay university fees or purchase inputs for businesses would be affected. Potential shortages and consequential increases to the prices of goods and services already in scarce supply would also arise over time as a consequence of the deadline not being met.
AMCHAM T&T is mindful that once the Bill is passed, guidelines for compliance will be developed by the regulators of financial institutions, the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago and the Securities Exchange Commission of Trinidad and Tobago. To this end, we encourage stakeholder involvement in the early stages of the development of these guidelines.
We caution that once this piece of legislation is passed, other critical pieces of legislation require urgent attention to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago comply with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing obligations. Failure to do so would continue to jeopardize our country’s links to the international banking system.
Several CARICOM countries, including Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas, have already passed their ‘FATCA’ legislation. It is our view that legislators on both sides of the aisle should put country first and work toward the passage of this legislation by the deadline. The consequence of inaction is not something that we can either afford or entertain.
AMCHAM T&T – ‘BREXIT’ LONG-TERM IMPACT STILL UNCLEAR
As a very open, small island economy, which has deep political and economic ties to the United Kingdom, the results of the UK referendum on that country’s membership in the European Union will undoubtedly have an impact on Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. The real, long-term impact is unlikely to be clear for some time however.
Nonetheless, with the UK voters casting their ballots in favour of a “BrExit”, and while we await the vote being taken to the Parliament and the UK invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union to allow for that exit, the Caribbean has several things to consider.
The first group of issues surround competitiveness. Concomitant with the victory of the “Leave” vote, the British sterling faced a sharp decline, reaching levels that it had not seen since the 1980s. The question of where the pound will settle and how long the volatility will persist is of some concern for several reasons. While a decline in the value of the pound may provide new opportunities for local businesses to source inputs from Britain and elsewhere in the UK, a sustained decline in value may also pose additional challenges as UK exports become cheaper and more price competitive, even in local markets. This will include services exports as the UK is second largest services export economy globally.
With a decline in the purchasing power of the British Sterling comes an attendant threat to regional tourism as the cost of a Caribbean holiday for UK travellers will increase. This is important because according to data on the Tourism Development Corporation website, the UK is our third largest source of tourists over the past decade. In raw numbers, on average over the past decade, 38,000 UK nationals visited T&T per year. Assuming that this number will fall if the cost of travel increases due to a devaluation of the UK currency, T&T will have to look for alternative markets. We therefore suggest that renewed efforts be placed on attracting tourists from near markets in Latin America and new markets in North America. In this regard, establishing Piarco International Airport as a pre-clearance port to the United States would be particularly valuable.
In the medium term, another area of uncertainty for the region is in our trade arrangements. Currently 15 Caribbean countries are in an Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, which allows for preferential trade and in some areas asymmetrical benefits (i.e. terms of trade that benefit the CARIFORUM more than the EU). Note here that the Parties to the EPA are 15 individual Caribbean States while on the other side, it is the European Community; and “Contracting parties to the Treaty establishing the European Community and the Treaty on the European Union” (i.e. not individual EU member states). If the UK is no longer a member state of the EU, then the applicability of the agreement to the UK comes into question.
Apart from the EPA, there is no legal framework allowing for preferential treatment between the UK and the English-speaking Caribbean. While we anticipate that the UK, being a longstanding development partner with the region, would not let our relationship wither, a strategy to prevent any negative impact of the Brexit and ensure the continuation of legal (in the context of the WTO) preferential trade, with the necessary certainty and predictability, should be devised quickly. Since CARICOM negotiates international treaties as a bloc, regional governments will need to move quickly to devise and execute a strategy to engage with both the EU and UK throughout the BrExit process.
Article 233 of the EPA – Definition of the Parties and fulfilment of obligations – states that:
Contracting Parties of this Agreement shall be Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Surinam, and Trinidad and Tobago, hereinafter referred to as the “CARIFORUM States”, on the one part, and the European Community or its Member States or the European Community and its Member States, within their respective areas of competence as derived from the Treaty establishing the European Community, hereinafter referred to as the “EC Party” on the other part.
Article 245 – This Agreement shall apply, on the one hand, to the territories in which the Treaty establishing the European Community is applied and under the conditions laid down in that Treaty, and on the other hand, to the territories of the Signatory CARIFORUM States. References in this Agreement to ‘territory’ shall be understood in this sense.
Date: Thursday 12th May, 2016
Event: AMCHAM T&T Annual General Meeting 2016
Address by AMCHAM T&T President Ravi Suryadevara
Ravi Speech Luncheon AGM 2016
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