Delivered by David Shark,
Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the WTO
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and congratulations on your confirmation as our Trade Policy Review Board Chair today. We recognize the substantial investment of time and effort that Chairing the TPRB represents and we appreciate your willingness to serve in this capacity.
We also welcome Minister of Trade and Industry Stephen Cadiz, and his delegation to the WTO’s third Trade Policy Review of Trinidad and Tobago. I would like to commend him for his opening statement, and for the materials that the government of Trinidad and Tobago provided for this third review. I also want to thank the Secretariat for its helpful Report. Both Reports provide important insights into Trinidad and Tobago’s economic and trade policy since its previous review in 2005. We have submitted some questions about specific issues regarding Trinidad and Tobago’s trade policy regime, and we welcome the responses that were provided this morning. We will review these responses carefully in preparation for Friday’s session of this review. Finally, we would like to thank the discussant, Ambassador Kwok Fook Seng, for facilitating these deliberations and for helping to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago’s Trade Policy Review is thorough and constructive.
The United States values its strong partnership with Trinidad and Tobago. The United States is Trinidad and Tobago’s largest trading partner. In 2010, the United States accounted for just under half of Trinidad and Tobago’s exports and approximately 29 percent of Trinidad and Tobago’s imports. Since 2006, Trinidad and Tobago has been the leading exporter of goods under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). The United States imported $2.2 billion under CBI tariff preferences from Trinidad and Tobago in 2010, an increase of 43.8 percent from 2009. Less than twelve percent of all U.S. imports from Trinidad and Tobago were subject to duty. The remainder entered the United States duty-free, either through the CBI or because the MFN rate is zero.
As Trinidad and Tobago’s largest trading partner, the United States’ commercial relationship with that country remains vibrant. Our total two-way goods trade grew steadily during the second half of the last decade, and two-way trade through the first 11 months of 2011 exceeded total trade from the previous year. Through the first 11 months of 2011, U.S. goods exports were $1.8 billion and U.S. goods imports were $7.5 billion.
As both the Report from the Secretariat and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago note, the energy sector continues to play a dominant role in the economy. According to the Secretariat Report, the petroleum sector generates approximately one-third of GDP. The importance of the energy sector is reflected in the composition of exports to the United States. Imports under CBI tariff preferences from Trinidad and Tobago are dominated by petroleum and methanol and 75 percent of imports of these two goods entered under CBI provisions in 2010.
We welcome the government’s efforts to strengthen and diversify the economy through the Medium-Term Policy Framework 2011-14 (MTPF). According to the government’s Report, the MTPF recognizes that “international trade is fundamental to the country’s continued prosperity,” and seeks to “further integrat[e] into the multilateral trading system.” We look forward to learning more about the “additional reforms” envisioned by the government to boost competitiveness, particularly through trade. In this regard, we would be interested in efforts by the government to increase transparency and predictability, so that trade in goods and services flows smoothly. We have submitted some questions regarding the procedures the government uses to consider, notify, and implement changes in tariffs. The Secretariat’s Report also notes that for 50 tariff lines, the applied rate currently exceeds the bound rates. The majority of these items are the same as those that were presented at the last Trade Policy Review. Similarly, the Secretariat Report points out that while all duties are bound in ad valorem terms, the government applies specific duties to 27 tariff lines, (mainly alcoholic beverages) which could lead to the applied duty exceeding the bound rate. We would ask for information regarding when Trinidad and Tobago will bring all rates to within their bound rates.
One of the key ways to enhance competitiveness is to adequately and effectively protect and enforce intellectual property. In this regard, we hope to hear from the delegation about Trinidad and Tobago’s efforts to pass and fully implement IPR-related legislation, especially with respect to remuneration to songwriters for performances of their works.
The Report from the Secretariat describes the efforts by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to expand the tourism sector through the 2010 National Tourism Policy. Trinidad and Tobago has much to offer visitors, such as the country’s warm hospitality and its vibrant culture, both of which contribute to the tourism industry. In this regard, we encourage Trinidad and Tobago to consider policies that keep its hotels and resorts attractive to visitors, such as ensuring that high quality agricultural products and processed foods are available at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, there have been reports that Trinidad and Tobago intends to raise the tariffs on poultry, for example. In light of the importance of the tourism sector to Trinidad and Tobago’s development and the harm to tourism development that the current lack of tourist facilities, such as restaurants and hotels can do, we wonder why Trinidad and Tobago would raise the cost to its consumers, both local and visitors, of popular food items.
In closing, the United States will continue to work with Trinidad and Tobago and the other CARICOM members to strengthen and deepen our relationship. We look forward to our work with all of our trading partners to strengthen the global economy and the WTO, allowing trade and investment opportunities to expand, and further enhancing opportunities for Trinidad and Tobago to broaden its exports and its export markets. In closing, we offer all good wishes to the government of Trinidad and Tobago for a successful Trade Policy Review.