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Better days

Getting local products on T&T shelves will be easier than before

Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Senator Vasant Bharath (left) chatting with president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry Tracey Shuffler.

Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Senator Vasant Bharath (left) chatting with president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry Tracey Shuffler.

Barbadian manufacturers are getting an assurance that it will be much easier getting their products into the lucrative Trinidad & Tobago market.

Even as he served notice that Barbados should not expect any change in the current trade imbalance between the two Caribbean islands, the twin-island republic’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Senator Vasant Bharath told Barbados TODAY restrictions have been eased in the past eight to nine months and that should continue.

“It will be easier than it was before,” he assured in an interview following his address to a business luncheon organised by the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Hilton Barbados Resort.

A year ago, Banks Holdings Limited (BHL) and this island’s Caribbean neigbour were at loggerheads, after T&T’s Food and Drugs Division blocked Pinehill Dairy milk and juices from entering that country. The department claimed that the PHD products’ labeling did not comply with its standards.

“One of the areas that we need to focus our attention in Trinidad & Tobago on, and we are doing that, is the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division. It is . . . an area which does not fall under the ministry of trade; it falls under the ministry of health. It affects trading but we have little control over their functions and responsibilities,” Bharath said.

“I’m now working with the minister of health and I think things have gotten a little better in the last eight to nine months because we’ve taken more control over the activities of the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division.”

Bharath said that particular department now clearly understood the impact it has when it makes wrong decisions.

He was also questioned about the unfavourable trade balance his country had with Barbados.

The minister stopped short of saying that the trade advantage his country enjoys was here to stay and there was nothing anyone could do about it, as he attributed the imbalance to the sophistication and competitiveness of Trinidad’s market.

“Trinidad is a very highly mature and sophisticated market with a very highly developed manufacturing sector. One of the things that has caused Trinidadian manufacturers to become as competitive as they are, is that in the late ‘80s there was a restriction on foreign exchange in Trinidad & Tobago and manufacturers were forced to go outside of Trinidad & Tobago and, in many cases, outside the region to seek foreign exchange, to compensate for being able to replace their raw materials from outside of the region,” he explained.

As a result, Bharath contended, manufacturers had to compete against the world market.

“They have become extremely competitive over the years. As a result, they’ve also been able to retool their manufacturing plant, to be able to continue to service those markets. So there is a competitive advantage I think we have in a number of areas with the rest of the CARICOM region,” he said.

“That’s a fact of life,” Bharath said matter-of-factly. “It is what it is.”


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