Gopee-Scoon at TIC: Rethink, restructure for resilience

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon.

MINISTER OF TRADE and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon advised in her address at the opening of the Trade and Investment Convention on Wednesday night that businesses must restructure and rethink some of their practices to become more resilient and able to recover and be flexible in the face of global shocks.

Gopee-Scoon said building a skilful workforce, developing an integrated supply chain and adopting technology and innovation would help business maintain flexibility and develop the capacity to expand.

“The reality is, manufacturers are finding it more difficult to find talent today, as many vacancies require hands-on training. Further, the digital transformation of the manufacturing sector is also changing the skills required.

“Businesses therefore have the responsibility to restructure the workplace, rethink the composition and capabilities of their workforce and adopt flexible and innovative strategies to attract and retain talent,” Gopee-Scoon said.

She added that the manufacturing sector needed to develop a diverse, flexible and more integrated supply chain using reshoring and nearshoring to maintain an advantage for growth and to prepare for the next disruption.

“The private sector is encouraged to remake and diversify their supply chains through the identification of multiple sources of raw materials, multiple production locations and multiple warehouse hubs and distribution channels,” she said.

She said last week’s Agri-investment Forum and Expo identified 19 potential agri-food investment opportunities, in keeping with the objective to reduce the region’s food import bill by 25 per cent by the year 2025.

“The private sector is invited to capitalise on the opportunities for investment along the value chain in the growth and production of primary products, sorting and processing, manufacturing, packaging, transportation distribution and brokerage, wholesale and retail and to get involved in the remaking of the value chains associated with the food and beverage sector.”

She added that local enterprises should embed new and developing technology and innovation in their operations. She said data analytics would allow businesses to optimise their performance.

Gopee-Scoon mentioned the TT Trade and Business Information Portal, which was launched in May to amplify international competitiveness and enhance the ease of doing business. She said since the launch the portal had been visited over 120,000 times by people in over 77 countries.

“The acceleration of digital technology and innovation are pivotal to the success of the manufacturing sector,” she said. “The convergence of artificial intelligence, blockchain and robotics are fundamentally shifting manufacturing and therefore local enterprises should be embedding these technologies in their operations today if they wish to remain competitive.”

Gopee-Scoon commended the manufacturing sector on its success, pointing out that for the first half of the year, non-energy manufacturing-sector exports were 17 per cent higher than the year before, earning $5.98 billion this year as compared to $5.10 billion for the same period in 2021.

She said food and beverage revenue increased by $1.13 billion in 2021 to $1.44 billion, chemicals and fertilisers went up from $186 million in 2021 to $379 million this year, paper and paper-related products increased from $215 million to $278 million, and tobacco rose from $84 million to $110 million. There were also significant increases in the areas of glass and glass products, furniture and lighting fittings and the wood and wood-related product industries.

The TT Manufacturers Association’s 23rd Trade and Investment Convention, the region’s largest business-to-business networking event, will be held from August 25-27. The convention will have over 130 exhibitor booths, with over 25 countries participating and over 30 business sectors involved.