Venezuelan migrants are making a positive contribution to the Trinidad and Tobago labour force.
So said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday in a response to a question at a virtual AmCham conference titled “Forecast on Latin American and the Caribbean”.
The Prime Minister said there was a “downside” to the migrants, however. “There are some who may require assistance which we might not be able to provide and, in some instances, we have had migrants who are not exactly model citizens,” he said.
However, he said most of the 16,500 registered Venezuelan migrants in Trinidad and Tobago were gainfully employed in providing the skills which they came with or in other kinds of employment for their own sustenance. “And while it is not as comfortable as they would like and we would like because of the experiences that we are having now with Covid, where the national population itself, without the Venezuelan migrants, are having some challenges, we have opened our doors, we are a humane neighbour and our neighbourly relationship with Venezuela continues and we are pleased that we have been able to assist those who are in T&T,” the Prime Minister stated.
He added: “But we still have a flow of illegal migrants who we have indicated by policy that if they do not come through the system that we have put in place and they come through illegally that we would be repatriating (them). Because, understand our circumstance, as a small island with limited resources, we cannot have an open door policy where persons come in their tens of thousands at will. So we do try to control our borders and we control the number of migrants we can manage,” he said, adding, “by and large, we are coping and will continue to be a good neighbour to Venezuela”.
Double manufacturing output
The Prime Minister in his virtual address also stated that Trinidad and Tobago intended to access the preferential tariff afforded by the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act in order to double manufacturing output by 2024.
He said the United States remained one of Trinidad and Tobago’s main trading partners. “The US absorbs roughly 35 per cent of our total exports and provides some 30 per cent of our imports of goods,” he said.
He said while imports from the US were quite varied, with machinery and transport representing the largest segment, T&T’s exports to the United States tended to come from the petrochemical sector (LNG, methanol, ammonia and urea).
Noting that the most recent report by the US Trade Representative indicated that since 2005 Trinidad and Tobago had been the main beneficiary of the CBI programme, the Prime Minister said he wanted to thank the United States government for the recent extension of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) which will now take the country to 2030.
“This action will in no small measure help to bolster the continued strong trading relationship between our countries,” he said.
“The recent passage of the CBTPA in the US Senate extends the duty and quota-free access of products from the region to 2030. Trinidad and Tobago, as one of the eight CBTPA-eligible countries, intends to access the preferential tariff treatment afforded by this Act to support the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s plans to double manufacturing output by 2024. The extension of the agreement to include textile and apparel products assembled from US fabric would also be an important fillip to develop the export potential of the local fashion industry,” the Prime Minister stated. See Page 30