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On behalf of the European Union I would like to welcome Trinidad and Tobago's Delegation, led by H.E. Senator the Honourable Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry and the Discussant, H.E. Mr. Michael Gaffey (Ireland), for his introductory words.
Since its last review in 2012, the economic situation of Trinidad and Tobago has been negatively impacted by the fluctuation of oil and LNG prices. Against this background, GDP per capita declined about 1 %, as noted by the Discussant.
However, the good news are that this trend seems now to belong to the past as growth resumed in 2018. The IMF projects that growth in Trinidad and Tobago’s economy will average 1.5% over the next five years (2019-2023). Trinidad and Tobago remains one of the most developed nations in the Caribbean, and a high-level income country.
Taking into account these developments, the EU invited the authorities - via its written advanced questions - to report on their current use of the special and differential treatment that is available for developing countries in implementing certain WTO agreements and to indicate the perspectives in this regard for future negotiations. The EU thanks the authorities for their reply but regrets that no details have been supplied regarding the current use by Trinidad and Tobago of the special and differential treatment that the WTO instruments allow except, indirectly, via their notification of category C commitments for the implementation of the TFA.
The economy remains driven by natural gas and petro-chemical exports, even if industrial and financial sectors are developed to diversify the economy and it is an important commercial and business hub.
To address the challenges of the declining/volatile revenues from the energy sector, the authorities refer to their plans such as the "Vision 2030". The EU welcomes this recognition of the need for further reforms aiming inter alia at increased social inclusion, good governance and making the industry and the whole economy more innovative and environmentally responsible. The EU is very keen to know more about the implementation of these goals, notably regarding good governance and environmental issues. The EU is of the view that multilateral and regional trade and transparent business environments could play an important role in this agenda.
The EU remains the second trading partner of Trinidad and Tobago. The EU notes that the share of CARICOM in Trinidad and Tobago's trade has declined. This leads the EU to ask the authorities how they see their integration in the region and its perspectives.
The EU's relations with Trinidad and Tobago are underpinned by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, signed in 2000 by the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states. Since the end of 2008, Trinidad and Tobago has been Party to the EU-CARIFORUM European Partnership Agreement that sets important commitments for trade liberalisation on both sides and which has now entered the 10th year of its application.
The EU is also a substantial provider of development assistance, much of which is aimed at modernization and diversification of its economy. The current 11th EDF National Indicative Programme which runs from 2014 to 2020 amounts to 9.7 million EUR with focus on, inter alia, innovation and Civil Society. In the period 2008-13, EU's total assistance amounted to 25.9 million EUR.
With the aim of diversifying the economy, EU cooperation activities are focused on boosting the country's non-energy industrial and service sectors, in particular by encouraging closer university-industry cooperation, providing assistance to small and micro-sized enterprises, and stimulating export-oriented activities. In addition, the EU supported sustainable growth, conservation of biodiversity, and mitigation measures to the impact of Climate Change on a small island state. The EU further supported the mitigation of the environmental impact from the extraction of resources with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Finally, Trinidad and Tobago was a beneficiary of the EU’s Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol Countries that has now ended. Under the AMS, Trinidad and Tobago has received a total of €75 million over the period 2007-2013.
The EU will not repeat its advanced written questions but we would like the authorities to clarify further, for example, the perspectives regarding several tariffs that exceed and surpass the bound rate by huge margins, as also referred by the US in its statement.
We would like to conclude by wishing all the best to Trinidad and Tobago for their review.