Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar at the TT-Canada Business Forum
April 25, 2013:
Prime Minister, the Honourable Kamla Persad- Bissessar delivered an address at the Trinidad and Tobago- Canada Business Forum during her four (4) day official visit to Toronto, Canada. The following are her speaking notes from the event:
I am honoured to address you this evening, and I take this opportunity to convey my deepest appreciation and thanks, to the Right Honourable Stephen Harper and the Government and people of Canada, for the courtesies that have been extended to me and to the members of my delegation, since our arrival on Tuesday.
As you may be aware, this official visit to Canada is the first by a Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, since the Honourable Eric Williams, Trinidad and Tobago’s first Prime Minister, visited Canada in July 1966 and was received by Prime Minister the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson, P.C.
Much has changed for both our countries in the intervening years, but what has remained constant is the dynamic and productive relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and Canada.
An historical overview
Indeed our trade links date back to the 18th century, when the Maritime Provinces of Canada traded fish and lumber for West Indian rum, molasses and spices.
The relationship grew more personal in the late 19th century, when Presbyterian Minister, Reverend John Morton, arrived in Trinidad in 1868 with his family to set up the Canadian Mission. Reverend Morton and the Canadian Presbyterian missionaries worked tirelessly among the East Indian communities, especially in rural Trinidad. Dr. Morton and his colleagues founded schools alongside churches, providing a western education for children who had been deprived of opportunities to attend school because of the status of their parents as indentured labourers.
Thanks to the Presbyterian Church, which began its mission in Iere Village in Princes Town and later established high schools and teacher training colleges, our citizens were able to achieve upward mobility much quicker than if the Canadians had not lent a helping hand. The profound impact of the Presbyterian schools continues to resonate in the country today, as many of them are among the top performing schools in Trinidad. I, myself, am a proud alumnus of one of those schools, the Iere High School.
I am certain that among this esteemed gathering, are many nationals of Trinidad and Tobago now resident in Canada, who attained some or all of their early schooling at a Presbyterian-run school back in Trinidad. Independence for Trinidad and Tobago in 1962 brought official diplomatic relations between our two countries, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The way forward – our economic strategy
Today I stand before you as the Prime Minister of a resource-rich, young Nation; intent on creating a more diversified, knowledge-intensive economy and open to the new technologies and thinking which are driving innovation and development.
In Trinidad and Tobago, we are very cognizant of today’s competitive global business environment, and the need to extend our reach beyond what may be termed our traditional trading partners.However as we know only too well long-held and well nurtured friendships are worth their weight in gold and are not easily broken.
Therefore, even as we acknowledge the changing patterns in world trade and investment flows, and look to embrace the new emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa and the wider Latin American Region; we will also consolidate our longstanding relationships with our traditional partners, such as Canada.As you may agree, trade and investment have the potential not only to increase economic security, but also to strengthen the relationship between nations.
As a Government, we see ourselves as the facilitator of business and the creator of opportunities for the business sector rather than a competitor with the private sector. We are, however, quite open to public/private sector partnerships as we move steadily towards our goal of improving the quality of life and ensuring sustained prosperity for all our citizens. Our approach is to see those who knock at our doors as valued customers. We know that the knock is potential, which we must convert into investments.
In fact, may I say that the entire approach of my Government is one that is customer centred and service driven.
We welcome both local and foreign direct investment.
To this end we are revolutionizing the way we do business in Trinidad and Tobago.
From the establishment of invesTT, our frontline investment promotion agency, which is aligned to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment; to the introduction of TTBizLink, a Single Electronic Window for Trade and Business Facilitation, we are creating an enabling environment that is business friendly and supportive.
TTBizLink became operational in February 2012 and links over 10 government departments to deliver key business related e-services such as e-fiscal incentives; e-import and export licences and permits; e-company registration and e-work permits.
InvesTT is mandated to act as the national ‘one-stop shop’ and point of access for potential investors in all sectors of the economy, as well as to facilitate all the relevant requirements and regulatory approvals required by investors.
As well, my Government has developed exporTT, to be the sole National Export Facilitation Organization of Trinidad and Tobago, with the objective of creating internationally competitive firms in the non-energy, manufacturing and services sectors; to grow and diversify trade and generate wealth through export led growth. I am pleased to state that during this official visit, I am accompanied by several members of the Trinidad and Tobago business sector, who are interested in either expanding or establishing networking links with their Canadian counterparts.
InvesTT along with exporTT, organized several business to business meetings between these stakeholders and facilitated a Trade Mission here in Toronto, that I trust will result in mutual business opportunities. To say that Trinidad and Tobago is open for business is no idle boast.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is committed to fostering sustainable growth through trade and investment.
For decades, our gas and oil sector has created and sustained our wealth. But we cannot continue to depend on finite, volatile resources. We have to look ahead, think innovatively and act decisively. Diversification is the key to our continued economic growth.
It is for this reason that my Government has identified several Priority Sectors for development and investment including:
• Information Communications Technology;
• Light manufacturing;
• Clean Technology – which includes renewable and alternative energy;
• Maritime Industries / Logistics;
• The Creative Industries – fashion, film, animation, music, carnival arts;
• Agribusiness; and
• Financial Services
In Trinidad and Tobago you will find a legal environment that protects the interests of investors while also securing the interests of Trinidad and Tobago.
We strive for a win-win result.
We value good corporate social responsibility and reward it by our commitment to long-term relationships. If you had not previously considered Trinidad and Tobago as an investment option, I urge you to look again and if you are already doing business in Trinidad and Tobago, I invite you to increase your involvement in our dynamic economy. A world of opportunity awaits you on the shores of our beautiful twin-island Republic.
Initial Accomplishments of Official visit
Trade and investment
Prime Minister Harper and I are both agreed that Trade and investment is necessary in order to boost our respective economies.
And while my visit has been brief, it has sought to capitalize on the existing excellent relations enjoyed by our two countries, and to utilize this advantage to harness the potential offered by your country, particularly in the areas of Security, Health, Energy and Skills Development.
I am pleased to announce that today Prime Minister Harper and I witnessed the signing of key Memoranda of Understanding on Defence and Security between our two countries.
Allow me to take this opportunity to express my appreciation Prime Minister Harper for Canada’s hemispheric engagement and the constructive role Canada plays in the Organisation of the American States and the Americas as a whole.
Trinidad and Tobago through its membership of CARICOM, OAS and CELAC can serve as the nexus as we work with Canada to achieve hemispheric cooperation.
Canadian investments in Trinidad and Tobago
Ladies and gentlemen, at present over 175 Trinidad and Tobago companies, mainly in the manufacturing and energy sectors, have consistent export links with Canada.
As well, many popular Canadian firms in the Energy and Financial sectors have been enjoying the favourable business climate in Trinidad and Tobago.
In recent years there has been a substantial increase in the value of Canadian investments in Trinidad and Tobago. The value of that investment increased from 50 million Canadian dollars in 1992, to more than $1.2 billion Canadian dollars in 2010.
Certainly what we are witnessing is a growing confidence in Trinidad and Tobago, by the Canadian business community.
I assure you that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is committed to strengthening business and commercial relations between Trinidad and Tobago and Canada.
Caribbean Investment Forum
It is therefore my pleasure to invite you all to the third annual Caribbean Investment Forum which is scheduled to take place in Trinidad on 10th and 11th of June this year.
The theme for CIF 2013 is “Caribbean Competitiveness: the Nexus of Innovation and Entrepreneurship”. I first had the idea for such a Forum during my tenure as Chair in Office of the Commonwealth, and after speaking at a meeting of the Commonwealth Business Council in London.
I believed that tremendous benefits could be derived from encouraging business within the Commonwealth Countries with a population of almost two billion persons, and more so, if Trinidad and Tobago could become a strategic jump off point for businesses wishing to enter the Latin American market using the trade agreements which our country has negotiated with several Latin American countries.
It is called the Caribbean Investment Forum since I am of the firm view that our CARICOM partners must also be afforded the opportunity to benefit from investor dollars in their countries.
As a leader within the Region, I believe that Trinidad and Tobago has a special role to play in the economic growth of the Region as a whole – a focus I shall maintain when I assume the Chairmanship of CARICOM in July this year.
The Caribbean Investment Forum is followed later in the week from, 12th – 15th June, by the Trade and Investment Convention.
So what we have is a Caribbean Investment Week rich with opportunities to grow your business. Members of my delegation will be happy to discuss the details of these premier events with you following these formal proceedings.
Public-Private Partnerships Seminar
In addition, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago will co-host a CARICOM Public-Private Partnerships Seminar and business-to-business meetings in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago later this year. I welcome the expertise that Canada will bring to this sphere of business activity.
Honourable Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, to quote a line from a famous play, “parting is such sweet sorrow”, but I am thankful that you have afforded me the opportunity to share some thoughts with you this evening.
I also wish to acknowledge the efforts of the Canadian Council of the Americas for making possible this evening’s reception.
In 2012, Trinidad and Tobago simultaneously celebrated the fiftieth (50th) anniversary of the achievement of independence and the fiftieth (50th) anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Canada. From our interactions and discussions during this visit, I easily envisage another 50 years of diplomatic relations between Trinidad and Tobago and Canada.
As members of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of American States and the United Nations, we remain largely united by a commonality of purpose and philosophy.
We value the benefits which engagement with Canada has brought to Trinidad and Tobago and look forward to the many new areas of co-operation between our two countries, following this visit.
Once again, I extend my sincere thanks to the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada for his official invitation to Canada and to the people of Canada for their hospitality.
May God continue to bless you all and may God bless our great Nations