Express Business Filler #1

TRADE Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon has acknowledged a recommendation from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar for the removal of import duties and VAT on basic food items as part of the Opposition’s Economic Manifesto Plan.

But Gopee-Scoon noted yesterday that from 2015 to now, the Ministry of Trade has obtained Caricom approval for the suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET) on basic food items like milk, sugar, oil, cheese, corned beef, canned herrings, tuna, mackerel, sardines, pasta, infant formula and juices.

“This means that all importers already pay zero import duties for the imports of said items.

“In addition, since 2016 the Government of Trinidad and Tobago undertook an aggressive rationalisation of the VAT regime in Trinidad and Tobago. As a consequence of this exercise, the rate of VAT on standard rated items was reduced from 15 per cent to 12.5 per cent in 2016...bringing further relief to consumers by enhancing their purchasing power,” the Ministry said in a statement.

In addition, as a result of this exercise the vast majority of basic food and essential items remained zero-rated, meaning that no VAT is currently charged or payable on such items and hence are already VAT free which all consumers would be able to see on any supermarket bill, it added.

According to Schedule 2 of the Value Added Tax Act, some of the basic food items that are currently zero-rated include rice (parboiled and brown), flour (all-purpose and wheat), pasta (uncooked or unstuffed), cheese (cheddar and rennet free) milk (including infant formula and substitutes, evaporated and powdered), bread (white and whole wheat), corned beef, sardines, smoked herring. The complete list of zero-rated items can be accessed on the Ministry of Finance’s website, the Ministry said.

No CET on pharmaceuticals

Trinidad and Tobago has also recently obtained approval from the Secretary General of Caricom for the suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET) on a specific list of pharmaceuticals, the Ministry stated.

The suspension which was implemented nationally via Legal Notices Nos 77 and 78 dated April 22 2020, expires on April 30, 2021 “will allow for citizens to access affordable medication through reduced prices.

“In addition, the suspension of the CET or customs duties on pharmaceuticals covers over 1,000 products not produced regionally.”

The list of Pharmaceuticals which can be accessed on the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s website, the Ministry added.


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