U.S. Department of State Background Note
Trinidad and Tobago
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Prime Minister--Patrick Manning
Selected Short List of Key Ministers and other government officials
The embassy of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is located at 1708 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-467-6490; fax. 202-785-3130).
The twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago continues to experience real GDP growth as a result of economic reforms, tight monetary policy, fiscal responsibility, and high oil prices. In 2006 the country experienced a real GDP growth rate of 12.2%. This is expected to level off to 5.5 percent in 2007. The PNM-led government continues its sound macroeconomic policies. Long-term growth looks promising, as Trinidad and Tobago further develops its oil and gas resources and the industries dependent on natural gas, including petrochemicals, fertilizers, iron/steel and aluminum. Additional growth potential also exists in financial services, telecommunications and transport. Strong growth in Trinidad and Tobago over the past few years has led to trade surpluses, even with high import levels due to industrial expansion and increased consumer demand. The debt service ratio was 2.8% in 2006, up from 1.8% in 2005. In 2006, unemployment fell to 5% down from 6.7% in 2005. In the first quarter of 2007, unemployment was at 6.5 percent. Headline inflation peaked at 10% (year-on-year) in October 2006, then moderating to 7.9% as of August 2007. Food price inflation slowed to 16.7% (year-on-year) in August 2007, down from 22% in October 2006. After raising its interest rates eight times in 2006, the Central Bank has maintained the rate at 8.0% since September 2006. There are no currency or capital controls and the Central Bank maintains the TT dollar in a lightly managed, stable float against the U.S. dollar. From October 2006 to March 2007, the exchange rate experience some fluctuation between TT$6.3122 and TT$6.3288 to US $1. The rate as at October 9, 2007, was TT$6.3335 to US$1.
Trinidad and Tobago has made a transition from an oil-based economy to one based on natural gas. In 2006, natural gas production averaged 4000 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscf/d), compared with 3200 mmscf/d in 2005. The petrochemical sector, including plants producing methanol, ammonia, urea, and natural gas liquids, has continued to grow in line with natural gas production, which continues to expand and should meet the needs of new industrial plants coming on stream over the next few years, including iron, aluminum, ethylene and propylene. In December 2005, the Atlantic LNG fourth production module or "train" for liquefied natural gas (LNG) began production. Train 4 has increased Atlantic LNG's overall output capacity by almost 50% and is among the largest LNG trains in the world at 5.2 million tons/year of LNG. Trinidad and Tobago is the fifth-largest exporter of LNG in the world and the single largest supplier of LNG to the U.S., supplying 70% of all LNG imported into the U.S. As a result of Atlantic LNG Train 4, the energy sector experienced 21.4% growth in 2006 and accounted for nearly 47% of GDP at that year's end.
Growth in the non-energy sector is projected to increase slightly, from 6.6% in 2006 to 6.7% in 2007. The Manufacturing sector is estimated to be growing by 8.0% in 2007, down from 9.4% in 2006. The Food, Beverage and Tobacco industry is expected to expand at a rate of 13.4%, up from 8.4% in 2006. This is due to improved performance in meat, poultry and fish (19%), tobacco (32%) alcoholic beverages (25%) and non-alcoholic beverages (15%). In 2007, slower growth is also expected in other industries, with Chemicals and Non-Metallic Minerals expected to slow to 6.4% in 2007 from 12.3% in 2006, and Assembly Type and Related Industries slowing to 5.1 % growth in 2007 from 10.1% in 2006. Improved growth is expected from the remaining industries, i.e. Wood and Related Products (4.5%), Printing and Publishing (7.7%), Textile, Garments and Footwear (0.6%) and Miscellaneous Manufacturing (11.9%). Services sector growth is expected to reach 5.2% in 2007, up from 4.3% in 2006, led by construction sector growth resulting from Trinidad and Tobago Government investment in housing and infrastructure and the commencement of new infrastructure projects such as the highway interchange. A marginal increase of 0.3% is projected for the domestic agriculture sector. The government is seeking to diversify the economy to reduce dependence on the energy sector and to achieve self-sustaining growth. The diversification strategy focuses on seven key industries: yachting; fish and fish processing; merchant marine; music and entertainment; film; food and beverage; and printing and packaging. A National Research and Development Fund will be established to stimulate innovation and investment in a new technology park, currently under construction.
Trinidad and Tobago has an open investment climate. Since 1992, almost all investment barriers have been eliminated. The government continues to welcome foreign investors. The government has a double taxation agreement, a bilateral investment treaty and an intellectual property rights agreement with the United States. The stock of U.S. direct investment in Trinidad and Tobago was $3.85 billion as of 2006. Total foreign direct investment inflows over the last five years amounted to approximately US$6 billion. Among recent and ongoing investment projects are several involving U.S. firms: ISG Trinidad started operations in November 2004 in a plant that has the capacity to produce 500,000 metric tons annually of hot briquetted iron. In December 2006 Nucor began producing direct reduced iron for shipment to the U.S. at its plant in Trinidad, which has a production capacity of 2.0 million tons per year. Two aluminum smelter plants are also planned, one of them to be owned by Alcoa. The first major business-class hotel to be opened in several years bears the Marriott Courtyard brand. A Hyatt-managed hotel is scheduled to open in late 2007, part of a multimillion-dollar waterfront development project in Port of Spain.
Trinidad and Tobago's infrastructure is adequate by regional standards. Expansion of the Crown Point airport on Tobago is being planned, which follows opening of the Piarco terminal on Trinidad in 2000. There is an extensive network of paved roads. Traffic is a worsening problem throughout Trinidad, as the road network is not well suited to the rising volume of vehicles and only a rudimentary mass transport system exists as an alternative. Utilities are fairly reliable in cities, but some rural areas suffer from power failures, water shortages in the dry season, and flooding in the rainy season due to inadequate drainage. Infrastructure improvement is one of the government's budget priorities, especially rehabilitating rural roads and bridges, rural electrification, flood control, and improved drainage and sewerage. The government has awarded a contract for the preliminary design of a light rail system which is projected to be completed in five to six years.
Telephone service is modern and fairly reliable, although significantly more costly to consumers than comparable U.S. service, including for wireline, wireless, and broadband services. Change began in the wireless market when the new Telecommunications Authority invited two firms to offer competition to state-owned monopoly incumbent TSTT (co-owned by Cable & Wireless). Two wireless providers, bmobile and Digicel, are already operational, while a third licensee, Laqtel, had not launched service as of October 2007. Two companies, Telestar Cable System Limited and Green Dot Limited, won an October 2007 Telecommunication Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) auction for radio spectrum to provide public Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) services. Improvements in service and price are likely as competition in the Internet services market increases in coming years.
As the most industrialized and second-largest country in the English-speaking Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago has taken a leading role in the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), and strongly supports CARICOM economic integration efforts and has advocated for a greater measure of political security and integration. CARICOM members are working to establish a Single Market and Economy (CSME). In early 2006, Trinidad and Tobago, in conjunction with the larger CARICOM nations, inaugurated the CARICOM Single Market, a precursor to the full CSME. As a first step toward greater security integration, Trinidad and Tobago and the other members of CARICOM collaborated with the U.S. on an Advance Passenger Information System in preparation for the 2007 Cricket World Cup tournament, which took place in nine Caribbean venues in March and April of 2007.
Trinidad and Tobago is active in the Summit of the Americas (SOA) process of the Organization of American States (OAS). It recently hosted hemisphere-wide ministerial meetings on energy (2004) and education (2005), as well as an OAS meeting on terrorism and security (also 2005). It also hosted a negotiating session in 2003 for the OAS Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), and aspires to hosting an eventual FTAA secretariat. It will host the SOA summit in 2009.
Trinidad and Tobago is a democracy that maintains close relations with its Caribbean neighbors and major North American and European trading partners. After its 1962 independence, Trinidad and Tobago joined the UN and the Commonwealth. In 1967, it became the first Commonwealth country to join the OAS. In 1995, Trinidad played host to the inaugural meeting of the Association of Caribbean States and has become the headquarters location for this 25-member grouping, which seeks to further economic progress and cooperation among its members.
U.S.-TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO RELATIONS
The United States and Trinidad and Tobago enjoy cordial relations. U.S. interests here and throughout the hemisphere focus on increasing investment and trade, and ensuring more stable supplies of energy. They also include enhancing Trinidad and Tobago's political and social stability and positive regional role through assistance in drug interdiction, health issues, and legal affairs. The U.S. embassy was established in Port of Spain in 1962, replacing the former consulate general.
International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programs were suspended in 2003 under the terms of the American Service Members Protection Act (ASPA), because Trinidad and Tobago, a member of the International Criminal Court, had not concluded a bilateral non-surrender or "Article 98" agreement with the United States. However, when the Congress de-linked IMET funding from the Article 98 sanctions, a nominal allocation of $45,000 in IMET was reinstated for late 2007. Currently, the main source of financial assistance provided to the defense force is through State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement funds, Traditional Commander's Activities funds, the State Partnership Program (with Delaware), and IMET. Assistance to Trinidad and Tobago from U.S. military, law enforcement authorities, and in the area of health issues remains important to the bilateral relationship and to accomplishing U.S. policy objectives.
The U.S. Government also provides technical assistance to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago through a number of existing agreements. The Department of Homeland Security has a Customs Advisory Team working with the Ministry of Finance to update its procedures. Similarly, the Treasury Department had an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) advising team that worked with the Board of Inland Revenue modernizing its tax administration; this long-running project ended in October 2007. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, collaborates with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Epidemiology Center (CAREC) and other regional partners to provide technical assistance and financial support for HIV/AIDS-related epidemiology surveillance and public health training in the region.
U.S. commercial ties with Trinidad and Tobago have always been strong and have grown substantially in the last several years due to economic liberalization. U.S. firms have invested more than a billion dollars in recent years--mostly in the petrochemical, oil/gas, and iron/steel sectors. Many of America's largest corporations have commercial links with Trinidad and Tobago, and more than 30 U.S. firms have offices and operations in the country. Trinidad and Tobago is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). The U.S. embassy actively fosters bilateral business ties and provides a number of commercial services to potential investors and traders. A double-taxation agreement has existed since the early 1970s. A tax information exchange agreement was signed in 1989, and a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) and an Intellectual Property Rights agreement were signed in 1994. The BIT entered into force in 1996. Other agreements include Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance treaties, which have been in force since 1999. An agreement on Maritime Cooperation was signed in 1996.
There are large numbers of U.S. citizens and permanent residents of Trinidadian origin living in the United States (mostly in New York and Florida), which keeps cultural ties strong. About 20,000 U.S. citizens visit Trinidad and Tobago on vacation or for business every year, and more than 4,600 American citizens are residents.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
The U.S. Embassy is located at 15 Queen's Park West, Port of Spain (tel. 868 622-6371, fax: 868 822-5905).
Other Contact Information
American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.
The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.
The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Further Electronic Information
Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free export counseling, help with the export process, and more.STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from the Federal government. The site includes current and historical trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank.
Revised: Oct. 2007