Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Buxo tells Economic Club of Canada great investment opportunities exist in T&T

Address by: Philip A. Buxo, High Commissioner for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Canada at the Economic Club of Canada Luncheon held at the Fairmont Ch√Ęteau Laurier in Ottawa on Wednesday December 10, 2013.

Theme: “Growing the Partnership: Encouraging trade and investment between Canada and Trinidad and Tobago”
I would like to share with you some of the things I have learnt in my current role as High Commissioner, as well as some of the opportunities I see for Canadians in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as throughout the Caribbean and South America. Between our two countries there exists a unique partnership. A partnership built in part on a shared history, and in part on shared goals.

Like Canada, although a little later, Trinidad and Tobago sought and eventually achieved self-government. In fact, last year was the 50th anniversary of the independence of Trinidad and Tobago.

Like Canada, Trinidad and Tobago relies on our natural resources and agriculture as the primary drivers of our economy, with a strong focus on exports. First with sugarcane, cocoa and then with petroleum and natural gas.

Like Canada, Trinidad and Tobago has sought to diversify our economy, and is a leader in providing financial services to the Caribbean community.

In fact, Trinidad and Tobago is Canada’s largest export partner in the Caribbean and Canada’s second largest import partner. An estimate in 2011 placed Canadian investment in Trinidad and Tobago at just over $1.2 billion Canadian dollars. And like Canada, Trinidad and Tobago is a hub for manufacturing, creating products destined for export to our neighbours.

Our connections run deep as we have over 100,000 Trinidad and Tobago diaspora living in Canada.
Our Defence Force trains regularly with the Canadian Forces, as do our police forces.

In recent years, we have signed nine (9) memoranda of understanding in the areas of Health, Security, Education and Public Service with Canada.
In addition to our High Commission in Ottawa, we have an established Consulate General in Toronto, an Honorary Consul in Montreal, and are currently finalising the appointments of Honorary Consuls for (4) four other Provinces.

Our governments have collaborated effectively for many decades, and Canada was one of the first countries to establish a High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago.

Global investors have understood the value that Trinidad and Tobago’s relationship with both the Caribbean community and South America can play in enhancing their access to these markets, and this remains a key growth opportunity for Canada in the future.

Recent investments in Trinidad and Tobago’s infrastructure continue to facilitate a strong investment climate, including a modern network of both seaports and airports, a highly developed industrial sector and a highly educated workforce. There are opportunities to partner in Maritime Services, Information Communication Technologies, Light Manufacturing, Clean Technology, creative industries, tourism, agribusiness and financial services.

Many people may not know that Canada’s investments in T&T are bigger than its investment in major European countries, like Italy and Norway. In fact, August 2012 statistics show that Canada had Cdn$1.3 billion invested in T&T, this was almost twice the amount for the same period for Italy where Canada’s investment was Cdn$523 million and Norway, which was Cdn$234 million. 

I could continue to speak about the opportunities to partner. However, further, and I would say greater opportunities exist, both between Trinidad and Tobago, as well as throughout the region.

Beyond investment in Trinidad and Tobago, there is the access that we can provide to our neighbours, both in the Caribbean community (commonly known as CARICOM) and in South America. This past year, Canadian International Trade Minister, Ed Fast, launched the Global Markets Action Plan, which built on the success of previous global engagement and investment strategies. In Minister Fast’s words, “Canada will concentrate its efforts on the markets that hold the greatest promise for Canadian business.”

The linkages between Trinidad and Tobago and Canada are longstanding, we are on the global investor’s radar, our bilateral trade is proof enough. A position could be reinforced by business leaders and other influential persons on the benefits of the trade and investment opportunities that exist in the Caribbean region.

It is interesting to note that since 1990, Canada’s exports to the Caribbean community have more than tripled, as have Canada’s investments. In fact, CARICOM-Canada two-way merchandise trade rose from CDN $1.1 billion in 1999 to $2.4 billion in 2010.

Canadian imports from CARICOM were valued at CDN $1.6 billion in 2010, up from $575.1 million in 2000 whereas Canadian exports to CARICOM were valued at CDN $779.45 million in 2010, up from $361.0 million in 2000. Many people may not know this either, that Canadian direct investment in the CARICOM region was CDN $56.56 billion in 2009, mainly in financial services such as banking and insurance; an increase of 102% since 2001.

This shows that more and more Canadian companies are seeing the opportunities, particularly as Canada and the world emerge from the global recession. Canadian businesses and the private sector are fast to catch on and Governments should be guided by their success. 

With respect to furthering trade and economic relations, there exists high potential for investment in CARICOM countries through Public Private Partnerships. CARICOM countries have a combined GDP of over 72 Billion US Dollars and there are numerous infrastructure and service projects in the Caribbean region that Canadian companies can partner with and lend their expertise to. 

 I have been an advocate for the old adage “Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”. Canadian involvement via P3s can be a catalyst as well as an effective tool to create sustainable economic value in the region. For example, a PPP centre, like the one established in Indonesia, could be considered for the Caribbean Community. This will increase Canadian access to projects that directly impact the region.

More than trade, there is our shared interest in a more peaceful and secure world. Our countries share the same values and have worked, productively, together in support of each other’s aims at the Organisation of the American States; the United Nations and on the world stage. Indeed the Caribbean Community can be a valued partner on the global stage and a supportive ally.

In my time as High Commissioner, and before that in industry, I have seen the opportunities that stand before our two countries. It remains for our political and business leaders to step forward and seize them.

It is incumbent on us to be proactive and to drive this purpose. Each of us has a role to play, as elected officials, as business leaders, as diplomats and as intellectual leaders.

I know that, even when my official duties as High Commissioner end, I will continue to take up the challenge and the mantel to be a passionate advocate for our special relationship, and the rewards that it promises. I encourage all of you to do the same. The potential is there and the future, if we seize it, is bright and prosperous. I believe in the strength of our two great nations and the shared promise of our future success. I believe in the growing strength of the Caribbean community and the bonds that we have forged between north and south. I ask you to join me in this vision.

There is great hope and great opportunity for the people of our countries. Partnership in Trade and Investment is the gateway to a heightened standard of living in Caribbean nations, with all the benefits that it brings: increased literacy, improved health, longer lifespans and a more active and engaged population.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to speak to you. I wish you all a Happy Holiday season and best wishes for the New Year.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai