Minister of Trade and Industry and Enterprise Development, Paula Gopee-Scoon, moves the Second Reading of the CARIFORUM States (the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic) and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Economic Partnership Agreement Bill, 2021 during the sitting of the Parliament yesterday.

An economic partnership between Trinidad and Tobago and the UK will allow self-employed professionals from nine fields to move to the UK temporarily to offer their services – and will also allow temporary movement of T&T service providers from 29 sectors into the UK market.

Proposed legislation for this partnership, which was debated in Parliament yesterday, will also assist in getting pharmaceuticals, will aid the manufacturing sector – and prevent the UK from slapping taxes on a range of local products.

Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon piloted the bill in Parliament yesterday.

It governs an economic partnership between Cariforum (Caricom and Dominican Republic), including T&T, and the UK following the UK’s “Brexit” departure from the European Union.

Gopee-Scoon said the arrangement will implement, “a predictable and permanent trading arrangement for both export of primary and manufactured goods and services and the import of much-needed goods such as pharmaceuticals, allowing them to be more affordable and key inputs into the manufacturing sector, allowing them to be price-competitive. “

Gopee-Scoon said the bill will ensure continued duty-free access for T&T exports, as the UK recently announced the UK Global Tariff effective January 1.

“If we don’t move swiftly to bring this bill to law, T&T’s products, such as cereals, aerated beverages, rum, paints and other sugar confectionery, will face duties under the UK.”

The bill also provides for temporary movement (not exceeding 6 months) of T&T service providers into the UK market in 29 sectors.

These cover: accountants, tax advisors and bookkeepers; architects, engineers and urban planners; doctors, dentists and veterinarians; midwives and nurses; physiotherapists and paramedical personnel; computer technicians, researchers, chefs, tourist guide services, fashion models, translation and interpretation services and advertising personnel.

She said, “T&T nationals who are contractual service suppliers, who wish to supply their services to the UK temporarily (not exceeding 6 months), can do so once a contract has been secured with a UK firm.”

She added, “The arrangement not only seeks to maintain and preserve the preferential access for our goods and services but provides significant opportunities for manufacturers and service suppliers to grow.

“Significant attention is being placed on increasing our exports to generate the much-needed revenue and foreign exchange. There’s great potential.”

In 2019, the UK was T&T’s fifth-highest export market within the European Union, with an exported value of TT$602 million. She said there are also some potential challenges with the arrangement, including increased competition to domestic service suppliers in specific service sectors which have been liberalised.

UNC MP Rushton Paray said the economy, manufacturers and all players have to be prepared to ensure UK partners don’t gain the upper han .

“Because by 2023, from buttons to Bentleys will have duty free access to T&T,” he said.

He said financial stimulus must be given to manufacturers to handle the situation, adding impending property and utility rate hikes, as well as security overheads, will increase production prices and cost of goods entering the UK market. He recommended speeding up digitising.

Paray also sought word on Government’s response to the UK’s new policy on carbon emissions, which he said will hit T&T and downstream industries.