Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon, left, and Chile Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Juan Anibal Barria Garcia, with Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, Dr Amery Browne, centre, after signing the General framework agreement for the partial scope agreement between the Government of T&T and the Government of Chile, at the Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, yesterday.

The signing of a general framework agreement to negotiate a partial scope agreement between T&T and Chile is expected to earn this country billions in revenue.

The agreement was signed yesterday by Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and Chilean Ambassador, Juan Aníbal Barría at the Minister’s Conference Room at the Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs in St Clair. Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne was also present.

Gopee-Scoon said in the last five years, T&T has exported an average of $2.1 Billion worth in goods to Chile per year- mainly petroleum products.

But she said those exports dropped to under $1 Billion in 2019 as she explained the existing trade.

“Exports, however, have displayed a downward trend over the period, standing at TT$937 million in 2019, with the top traded products being liquefied natural gas, ammonia, urea and aromatic bitters. Imports from Chile in 2019 amounted to TT$167 million and comprised mainly non-energy items including wood products, frozen salmon, apple juice and tomato paste,” Gopee-Scoon said.

She said the general framework agreement will lay the foundation for the partial scope agreement, which she said was expected to diversify T&T’s exports and earn even more revenue from the 19 million people in the Chilean market.

The objectives of the partial scope agreement are to allow local companies to enter the Chilean market at preferential rates of duties and source inputs into manufacturing at competitive prices. Chile’s business community will have the same benefits from the agreement.

Gopee-Scoon said the agreement will also see consumers benefitting from reductions in import duties on selected items.

“Trinidad and Tobago’s exporters will have additional access to a market of over 19 million persons, it will eliminate non-tariff barriers and foster cooperation between the countries in mutual areas of interest, including trade facilitation and electronic trade,” she said.

The Minister said the private sector has been engaged in the negotiation process so far and she gave an assurance that their input would be sought going forward.

She said the first round of negotiations will be held virtually to keep with social distancing and other Public Health Regulations.

“While the COVID-19 virus has stymied economies globally and also affected our progress, we recognize that we must carry on with our work and find innovative ways of achieving our goals. As such, both countries have agreed to conduct negotiations utilizing virtual platforms and we are hopeful that we can commence the first round of negotiations in November 2020 and achieve the same and even greater levels of productivity as would be achieved conducting traditional face-to-face negotiations.”

She said she was hopeful the partial scope trade agreement would be completed by the end of fiscal 2021 for submission and approval from Cabinet.