May 27, 2022
Remarks by the Honourable Pennelope Beckles, MP
Minister of Planning and Development and
Governor on the Board of Governors
Caribbean Development Bank
The Launch of Projects to be funded under the
CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement
It is indeed a great pleasure to address you this morning, on the launch of the projects entitled: Establishment of a Trade Facilitation Enquiry Point for Trinidad and Tobago; and Developing the Export Readiness of Trinidad and Tobago’s Companies for the European Market referred to as “Fit 4 Europe II”. These projects are to be funded under the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy Stand-by Facility.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is of strong conviction that these projects will further support the ongoing efforts at trade facilitation; the ease of doing business; and the capacity building and competitiveness of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), nationally, regionally and internationally. Both projects are invaluable and critical to the improvement of trade facilitation and export growth development, which are both pivotal pillars of Trinidad and Tobago’s economy.
We are heartened to note that the outcomes of these projects will further contribute to ongoing efforts aimed at diversifying and transforming Trinidad and Tobago’s economy and the improvement and sustainability of our export competitiveness. These areas have been identified as key enablers towards recouping our economic competitiveness beyond the pandemic, and navigating current global challenges. As such, the implementation of these initiatives, through our collaborative efforts, is critical to the country’s socio-economic advancement, and will redound to the benefit of our citizens.
The National Development Strategy of Trinidad and Tobago - Vision 2030, and the Road Map to Recovery policy speak to ‘Government playing a more facilitative and supportive role in creating the enabling environment for the private sector to drive diversification’.
To be even more specific, these projects align directly with Vision 2030’s Development Theme IV: Building Globally Competitive Businesses, touching on goals such as ‘A business environment that is conducive to entrepreneurship’, ‘A more attractive destination for investment and trade’, and ‘Firms will produce high-value products and services that can compete in export markets.’ The undertaking of these initiatives and their close alignment to the priorities of Government, is a clear indication of the effort to transform the economy and put our country back on the pathway of sustained economic growth and development.
The critical role of the non-energy sector’s contribution to economic growth, creating employment opportunities and reducing poverty for citizens, must be emphasised. We are therefore pleased with the undertaking of these projects and look forward to their successful implementation, as demonstrative pilots for growth in export capacity building and knowledge transfer strategies, consistent with the Government’s policy prescriptions for growth in manufacturing and MSME development.
The Trade Facilitation Enquiry Point for Trinidad and Tobago will serve to strengthen the nation’s trade capacity and boost our ease-of-doing-business capabilities, which is aimed at making the nation a more competitive destination for trade. At the same time, the “Fit 4 Europe II Project” - ‘Developing the Export Readiness of Trinidad and Tobago’s Companies for the European Market’ will also be critical in providing support to Trinidad and Tobago’s export sector as the country battles the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which threatens the growth and sustainability of Caribbean exports to the EU and across CARIFORUM markets.
“FIT 4 Europe I”, the previous installation of this project, was implemented over the period 2014 - 2017 and it successfully built the capacity of twenty-six (26) Trinidad and Tobago enterprises at varying levels of development. However, firms continued to encounter several challenges to entering traditional and non-traditional markets, that hindered their ability to leverage the market access opportunities offered by the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) EU-Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
On Further examination of the statistical data pertaining to CARIFORUM - EU trade over the period 2009-2019, it was shown that the trade preferences under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) have not fully achieved the envisioned benefits to CARIFORUM States. As such, it was paramount for the programme to be continued as “Fit 4 Europe II”.
It must also be recognised that at the core of the project, “Fit 4 Europe II”, is the goal of reducing gender inequalities within the private sector and the achievement of economic empowerment of women-owned MSMEs. This is consistent with Government’s commitment to ensuring gender equality and sustained roles for women within the economy, as prescribed in Vision 2030 and endorsed by the Road Map to Recovery Reports.
There is also an opportunity to further solidify Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These projects highlighted today support the attainment of Goal 5, Gender Equality; Goal 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth; Goal 10, Reduced Inequality; and through our collaboration with the CDB, CARICOM and the EU Delegation, demonstrate SDG 17, Partnership for the Goals.
I again congratulate all of the partners and people involved in these projects, because the work you do today, will have an impact on the prosperity of tomorrow. I also seize the occasion to applaud and celebrate the work of my counterpart in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and her team, for being the catalysts who will lead the projects’ implementation.
Indeed, the launch of these projects today is an important event and a prelude to a critical step in moving our country forward.
I take this opportunity to express sincere gratitude to our long-standing development partners, the European Union and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), who continue to provide critical support to the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, towards the achievement of our development agenda. The roles of these institutions continue to be invaluable, as champions of initiatives which are geared towards strengthening regional cooperation and integration, and transforming our economies. Trinidad and Tobago looks forward to continuing our long and productive relationships, and is grateful for your continuous support.
I again commend the efforts of the Ministry of Trade and Industry with respect to the pursuit of these initiatives, and for its continued efforts and collaboration with key stakeholders and partners in ensuring that the right mix of projects and programmes is implemented, to ensure the sustained growth and development of the trade sector.
In my capacity as Minister of Planning and Development and Governor on the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank, I reiterate our commitment to providing the necessary support towards the successful implementation of these projects. It is with great anticipation that I look forward to the results of these projects and the many benefits to be derived not only for the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, but for our Caribbean Region as a whole.
I thank you and may God bless us all.