Britain seeks to expand trade and investment links with region | Local company

ELEVEN months after Britain’s departure from the European Union (Brexit), the United Kingdom seeks to strengthen its trade and investment relations with the Caribbean and Latin America, building on its partnership agreement Economic (EPA) of 2019.

For Jonathan Knott, UK trade commissioner in Latin America and the Caribbean, the process is straightforward: pitching UK companies to Caribbean companies with similar interests looking for overseas partnerships.

“I think part of my role is a bit like a dating agency. To bring people together. Not all of these partnerships will work, ”he said.

Knott spoke to Express Business last Saturday at the end of a two-day visit to the country. Before coming to T&T he had visited Barbados.

He said that after Brexit the UK was once again focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean. And this is where the enhanced partnership agreement between the United Kingdom and the Cariforum countries comes in.

“And the reason it’s attractive is that this deal should make it much easier for our companies to work together, to find partnerships, to find people to buy and to sell to,” he said.

Its job is to increase trade and investment flows between the UK and Latin America and the Caribbean.

He leads a team of 170 people based in embassies and high commissions across the region.

He noted that UK companies don’t think enough about this part of the world when looking for partners or opportunities.

“So overall our trading levels are way lower than I think they should be, even if nothing else changes. But when you start to change, you start to introduce better ways of doing business, easier ways of doing business, and in fact, you speed it up even further, ”he said.

APE

The EPA says there are no tariffs for exporting or selling goods in the UK.

“And in the same way, we will reduce tariffs for UK companies who want to find partners doing business here in the Caribbean,” he said.

“It’s not just about tariffs. It is also a question of trade facilitation. It is really important that it is as easy as possible for companies to work together. So those are the first two things for which, as Trade Commissioner, I am very happy with UK business. And it is a process. So we signed the agreement, we need everyone to ratify it and then each of the members who signed it, must then make the changes that they are committed to making. We are a little ahead in the UK, fortunately because the tariffs do not already exist. But all partners must do it, ”he said.

Another aspect of Knott’s job is to generate enthusiasm on both sides, the Caribbean and the UK, for these opportunities.

“I am convinced on both sides that we are not taking enough advantage of these potential relations on both sides,” he said.

It is the combination that makes him enthusiastic and optimistic.

“So the team here and with their colleagues in London now needs to build on that and make sure that we can offer an understanding of the demand in Trinidad and Tobago. And that’s nothing more that we can offer support from UK, then we offer UK partners. And the same in UK, and it will be from the point of view of the T&T High Commission in London, but they are able to ship to make an offer to UK so that the products from Trinidad and Tobago can happen.

And how has Covid affected these plans?

On the British side, he explained that the United Kingdom left the EU in early 2021.

“Our trade with the European Union was steadily declining anyway, but now, as we leave the EU, the UK has to be a lot more active in the rest of the world to find these partners, to do good business. The Caribbean is absolutely no exception, ”he said.

He said that the trade balance does not matter but rather the volume of flows that matters.

“We’re doing pretty well. But we want to do well, not only for British companies, but also for Caribbean companies. Our belief is that the potential is there, we just have to realize it, ”he said.

He observed that as the world begins to reopen, he is now able to begin to look to the future.

UK Export Finance Agency

To facilitate trade, the UK is setting up an Export Credit Guarantee Agency.

He observed that until relatively recently, the financial agency did not do much work in Latin America in the Caribbean.

“But luckily that has changed. And that’s part of the UK’s global element, ”he said.

How it works?

He explained that his team will have specialist people “who will make these offers to local governments or local businesses, and essentially what that does is make financing transactions easier and cheaper by taking risks because the UK government , through this agency, will guarantee the loans.

He explained that if a deal is not “financially sufficient, they will make it workable, they will make it attractive”.

“The rates they offer are very competitive internationally and they want to work in Trinidad. They want to work, especially around the greening program. Clean growth is therefore one of the priorities that they really want to promote. I said before that they share the philosophy that trade should also help development. So I think this combination, hopefully, will once again facilitate funding, allow potential partnerships to come to fruition, ”he said.

Opportunities

For major areas of impact, it counts energy, cybersecurity and health among the areas where partnerships can evolve.

To this end, he had talks with the Minister of National Security and the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries.

In particular, as T&T prepares the energy industry for its transition, Knott said there are many companies in the UK who are in a position to support and enable this transition.

He observed that all countries made commitments at COP26 on the green agenda.

“I think in terms of Trinidad and Tobago, in the meetings I’ve had, it’s about using natural gas as a bridging fuel, but only as a bridging fuel. It is not the answer that takes us from a bad place to a good place. But talking about alternatives, whether solar energy, wind power, biomass, energy recovery from waste, hydrogen, as well as cracking water and the technology that needs it. We talked about the opportunity Trinidad as an energy hub already has in this new world of renewable energy, and frankly, how positive it is if we can support you, ”he said.

(BOX)

Release date:

October 29, 2021;

Total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and Trinidad and Tobago was £ 425million in the four quarters through the end of the second quarter of 2021, a decrease 0.7% or £ 3 million between the four quarters and the end of Q2 2020. Of these £ 425 million:

• Total UK exports to Trinidad and Tobago amounted to £ 297million in the four quarters through the end of the second quarter of 2021 (an increase of 23.8% or £ 57million sterling against the four quarters until the end of the second quarter of 2020);

• Total UK imports from Trinidad and Tobago amounted to £ 128million in the four quarters through the end of the second quarter of 2021 (a decrease of 31.9% or 60million pounds sterling against the four quarters until the end of the second quarter of 2020). Trinidad and Tobago was the UK’s 100th trading partner in the four quarters through the end of the second quarter of 2021, accounting for less than 0.1% of the UK’s total trade.

In 2019, the stock of UK outward foreign direct investment (FDI) in Trinidad and Tobago is not available due to data disclosure. In 2019, the stock of inward foreign direct investment (FDI) into the UK from Trinidad and Tobago was less than £ 1million.