Senator Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry, addresses the CCIC during its Business Meeting on ‘Trade with India’, on Thursday 17 March 2022. Seated in the back, left to right: Richie Sookhai, President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce; Laurence Modeste, General Manager of Digicel Business; and H.E. Arun Kumar Sahu, High Commissioner of India to Trinidad and Tobago. (Image by SHASTRI BOODAN)
SHASTRI BOODAN

The time is ripe for Indian investment in Trinidad and Tobago.

The declaration was made by Minister of Trade and Industry, Senator Paula Gopee Scoon, as she addressed the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC) on Thursday night, during a business meeting with the High Commission of India, at the Passage to Asia Restaurant in Chaguanas.

Minister Gopee-Scoon called on Indian pharmaceutical giants to take advantage of this country’s low energy cost and trained workforce to set up manufacturing plants here. She said such plants would allow manufacturers access to regional and Latin American markets.

L to R – H.E. Arun Kumar Sahu, High Commissioner of India to Trinidad and Tobago; Economist, Dr Valmikki Arjun; Senator Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry; Richie Sookhai, President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce; and Senator Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal, Minister in the Office of the Attorney General, chat together during the CCIC’s Business Meeting on ‘Trade with India’, on Thursday 17 March 2022. (Image by SHASTRI BOODAN)

“Trinidad is a gateway to the Americas, so you will find if you set up a manufacturing facility in T&T for pharmaceuticals, it means you would not only be exporting to the CARICOM market, which is 16 million people,” she explained.  “Because of the connections, because of all of the agreements we have signed through CARICOM and bilaterally within Latin America, it means that’s the market we are looking at.”

Minister Gopee-Scoon said after the departure of Acelor Mittal, there were no new entrants into T&T from India.  She recalled that in 2007, both countries signed a bilateral investment treaty that expired in 2017.  She said Government was once again looking at making investment agreements with India.

The trade minister noted that this country has been an exporter of energy and iron and steel products to India and observed that one of the “big ticket” items exported to India from T&T is scrap metal.

The trade minister said T&T needs to export its fashion and film, alcohol, agricultural and cocoa products. She also called on the private sector to make investments locally. 

L to R – H.E. Arun Kumar Sahu, High Commissioner of India to Trinidad and Tobago; Richie Sookhai, President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (centre, standing); and Senator Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry, during the CCIC’s Business Meeting on ‘Trade with India’, on Thursday 17 March 2022. (Image by SHASTRI BOODAN)

“Now is the time to unlock some of your capital,” she said.  “There is extensive capital in T&T that remains in the banks; that’s not the place for it, the interest is not attractive.  The place is really to get out and invest in new sectors, other sectors in your country, to ensure you can in fact have a resuscitation of your economy…  A revival of the economy to ensure that there is economic growth that each and every one of you as business people can participate in.”

She said: “Growth is not just about the Government and the economy growing.  It is about you growing and putting your assets to work.”

Chaguanas Chamber president, Richie Sookhai, said the government should start taking a hold of agriculture given the escalation of food prices and the war in the Ukraine. He said now was the time that economic diversification should start.

According to Sookhai, this country’s human capital remains one of its largest resources.

“We have the capacity, and we should go forward by harnessing that capacity that has untapped potential,” he pointed out.

L to R – H.E. Arun Kumar Sahu, High Commissioner of India to Trinidad and Tobago, and Richie Sookhai, President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce, chat during the CCIC’s Business Meeting on ‘Trade with India’, on Thursday 17 March 2022. (Image by SHASTRI BOODAN)

Indian High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu said many Indian goods are imported through intermediary locations such the USA, Canada and Brazil.

“I have constantly been vouching that the businesses of both countries do more with each other,” he said.  “India has a lot to offer regarding the quality and pricing of commodities and services.”

According to High Commissioner Sahu, some of the critical investment sectors include: information technology (IT) and information technology-enabled services (ITES); pharmaceuticals; agriculture and agro-biotechnology, including spices and cocoa and coconut; new energy, especially wind and solar; tourism and medical tourism; textiles and garments, fashionwear and ethnic wear; automobile and electrical machinery; Ayurveda, traditional medicine and wellness; as well as film, music, and entertainment.