Thursday, September 20 2007
Trinidad and Tobago can look forward to an expanded export trade with
Cuba with the recent inauguration by Prime Minister Patrick Manning and
Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage of our Trade Facilitation Office in Havana.
Designed to assist in promoting trade between the two Caribbean
countries, it emphasises the importance that TT places on the continued
development of trading links with the communist state.
The bilateral trade in 2006, in excess of $65 million, represented 41
per cent of Cuba's trade with Caribbean countries, with TT exports to
Cuba over the years including anhydrous ammonia, bars and rods of non
alloy steel, gas oil, liquefied butane, liquefied propane and soft drinks.
Between January and September 2005, the trade balance stood at $90
million in our favour, according to TT trade figures. There is no reason
why we can't ramp this up.
The opening of the trade ofice means that this country is positioning
itself to further penetrate Cuba's clearly significant US$2 billion
import market. According to Trade Minister Ken Valley, the trade office
will be authorised under Cuban law to promote and facilitate trade
between TT and Cuba. "It will be designed to function as a conduit
between TT manufacturers and those state companies authorised to import
and to sell to consumers," he said, noting it will also advise
manufacturers what products can be exported to Cuba.
What the office will certainly do is boost the confidence of local
manufacturers who want to expand or even start trading with the island.
For sure, with a market of about 11 million people, manufacturers are
eyeing its potential.
Meanwhile, Manning has stressed that despite the Trade Facilitation
Office's importance to this country it should also be viewed in the
context of an additional strengthening of Cuba's ties with other members
It is certainly one of the most crucial steps in this regard since the
signing of a Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement between Cuba and
Caricom in July of 2000 at the Community's Summit Meeting.
The significance of the two moves to Cuba cannot be underestimated,
especially with the continuing adverse effects on the Cuban economy of
the decades old US blockade of the island. In turn, Cuba's joining of
the Association of Caribbean States may have somewhat nullified the
economic blockade and this has not been tested because of feet dragging
by the US on the now stalled NAFTA.
But even without membership in the ACS, it may be a good idea for the US
to cease acting as though Cuba posed some great threat to it and lift
its economic blockade of the Caribbean nation. It's passe in a time of
globalisation where boundaries are no longer applicable.
The US, for example, not only maintains full trading links with China, a
one-time full fledged Communist country, but several leading American
multinational corporations have made huge capital investments in China,
making it one of the world's most powerful nations.
This has been at the expense of American jobs being lost and the
shutting down of countless plants in favour of relocating to China, with
its cheap labour and high level of technology.
It would be in the social and economic interests of both Caricom and the
Association of Caribbean States to seek to have the embargo lifted.