POLICY REVIEW: TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
14 and 16 of September 2005
Concluding remarks by the Chairperson
> Press release: Strong growth but achieving ambitious goals requires further reforms
This second Trade Policy Review of Trinidad and Tobago has contributed to a better understanding of its current trade policy regime. The preparation of the Country Report and the written responses to the questions by the Members have provided a valuable opportunity for domestic assessment of trade policy. The Country and Secretariat Reports, and the exchange between Members during the review, have contributed to transparency within the WTO, provided valuable resource documents for all Members, and offered very useful food for thought for Trinidad and Tobago in the pursuit of their continued development. The participation of Minister Kenneth Valley, Permanent Secretary Leacock and their delegation has greatly contributed to our work, for which we express our sincere thanks. Our thanks are also due to our discussant, Ambassador Glenne, for his excellent contribution to our discussions, and to the many Members who have intervened to contribute to the success of this review.
Members commended Trinidad and Tobago for its very good economic performance since its last review in 1998. This success reflects a favourable external environment and, more importantly, Trinidad and Tobago's commitment to outward-oriented policies and to the principle that free trade is the most viable option to achieve social and economic progress. Members also welcomed the creation of a hydrocarbons stabilization fund and Trinidad and Tobago's emphasis on investing in human capital. This approach bodes well for its efforts to further reform and diversify its economy, and thus achieve the ambitious objectives of Vision 2020, its national development strategy.
Members highlighted Trinidad and Tobago's positive and active role in the WTO, both within its day-to-day operation and in the DDA negotiations. Its submission of an initial offer on services was commended. Trinidad and Tobago's strong position in the CARICOM was noted, and Members welcomed its commitment to pursuing regional initiatives in a manner complementary to the multilateral trading system.
Members recognized that Trinidad and Tobago had a generally open trade regime, but noted that it would benefit from further reform. It was observed that Trinidad and Tobago had bound its entire tariff in the WTO and that, since its last review, had trimmed the surcharges applied on agricultural imports. Trinidad and Tobago was urged to narrow the gap between applied and bound tariff rates so as to enhance the predictability of its trade regime. Some applied tariffs apparently exceed bound rates, and Trinidad and Tobago engaged to examine measures to address this. While recognizing Trinidad and Tobago's limited use of non-tariff charges on imports, some Members expressed concern about the increasing use of antidumping measures and about certain aspects of the SPS and TBT regimes.
Trinidad and Tobago provided information on its investment regime and clarified a number of issues about its various incentive schemes. Members welcomed Trinidad and Tobago's reform of the government procurement system and suggested it carry out further improvements. Some Members also urged Trinidad and Tobago to introduce competition policy legislation. Comments were also made with respect to privatization and other subjects such as import licensing, state-owned enterprises, and IPRs.
Trinidad and Tobago was commended for its liberalization of the financial services and telecommunications sectors, but Members noted that further steps are required, for example, to reform the maritime transport sector and promote competition in the telecommunications sector. It was also suggested that Trinidad and Tobago close the gap between its GATS commitments and the actual greater openness of its services sector.
This brings us to the conclusion of the second Review of Trinidad and Tobago. We all appreciate Trinidad and Tobago's strong economic performance, underpinned as it has been by sound macroeconomic policies and structural reforms. I welcome Trinidad and Tobago's active engagement in the multilateral trading system and its commitment to a trade regime that is open, sustainable and aligned with the principles and objectives of the WTO. I invite Trinidad and Tobago to give its trade regime greater predictability by enhancing its multilateral commitments in the context of the DDA. This would both help Trinidad and Tobago achieve its ambitious development goals and strengthen the multilateral trading system within which Trinidad and Tobago has emerged as one of the most dynamic members.