UK-Trinidad trade - We make good company
Masqueraders pose for a photo during Notting Hill Carnival on August 27th
Attending the Notting Hill Carnival in West London is an unforgettable experience and this year’s event, held on 26 and 27 August, was no exception. Europe’s largest street festival drew an estimated one million revellers, despite the cloudy skies.
The Carnival has its roots in Trinidad and exemplifies the cultural ties that bind the country with the UK. It was Trinidadian journalist and activist Claudia Jones who came to the UK in 1955 as part of the African-Caribbean immigration wave that boosted Britain’s workforce. She helped to found the festival and is widely recognised as the “mother” of the Notting Hill Carnival.
Claudia Jones was just one of many Trinidadians to make the journey to Britain in search of a better life; in 2009, an estimated 24,000 Trinidad and Tobago-born people were living in the UK.
A considerable number of British citizens also continue to visit the islands. In 2011, Trinidad & Tobago received 59,000 UK travellers, making it the 71st most visited country by Britons out of 188 nations.
Trinidad and Tobago's High Commissioner to London, Garvin Nicholas, spoke of the strengthening of trade and economic relations between the two countries. He pointed out that while in 2010 the UK exported £116 million worth of services to Trinidad and Tobago and imported £30 million, this trade imbalance was righted in 2011, with UK exports totaling £118 million, including cereals and cereal preparations, beverages, medicine, pharmaceutical products, and defence services, next to imports of £193 million.
“As our twin island state focuses on opportunities for its tourism, food and beverage, marine and maritime, creative and manufacturing industries, we aim to increase service exports to the United Kingdom from last year’s level of £58 million. As the UK’s biggest investment and trading partner in the region, Trinidad and Tobago will continue to make a positive contribution to the UK’s prosperity," Nicholas said.
In fact, blue chip British companies such as Cable and Wireless, BP and British Gas have made substantial and profitable foreign direct investments in the country. Trade between Trinidad and the UK is focused on oil and gas, information and communication technologies, security and defence, health, waste water, education and training, construction and infrastructure, and finance.
Trinidad is also an attractive export platform for UK companies setting up in the Caribbean. The country is a member of the CARICOM Single Market, which allows for the free movement of people, capital, goods and services, as well as the right of establishment between member states. Trinidad and Tobago also participates in the Cariforum-EU Partnership Agreement, and benefits from the Caribbean Basin Initiative with the US, CARIBCAN with Canada, the Generalized System of Preferences provided by some developed countries, and the Global System of Trade Preferences.
To encourage export-oriented activities, the government has established a network of free-trade zones (FTZS) in Trinidad.
Current rules allow activities in FTZs involved in warehousing and storage; manufacturing; transshipment; loading and unloading; export and import; service operations including banking, insurance, and professional services; packaging and shipping; assembling; processing, refining, purifying, and mixing; and merchandising, including international trading of products.
FTZ incentives include exemption from:
- Customs duty on imports of goods into the FTZ.
- Income tax.
- Corporation tax.
- Business levy.
- Withholding taxes on remittance of profits, dividends, and other distributions.
- Taxes on land, buildings, improvements to buildings, and plant and machinery in the FTZ.
Companies in FTZs are not subject to import and export licensing requirements and benefits are granted for an indefinite period. The FTZs are regulated by the Trinidad and Tobago Free Zones Company Ltd (TTFZ). At the end of 2010, 20 approved FTZ enterprises were operating with 2,600 employees, generating exports in excess of US$100m.
UK companies are well-placed to take advantage of this business-friendly environment, given the close trading relationship the two countries have built on a shared history dating back over 200 years.
Trinidad and Tobago celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence from the UK on 31 August 2012, a truly significant milestone. A line from the soca song Trini by local artist Benjai sums up the business message best: “We make good company.”