TTMA head: Trade missions bearing fruit

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TTMA president Roger Roach, gives his remarks at the TTMA’s post budget presentation, Hyatt Hotel, Port of Spain on October 3. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

SINCE THE economy reopened in 2022 after the covid pandemic restrictions, the TT Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) has embarked on several trade missions across the region – getting boots on the ground in areas where TT can do business.

Its proud president, Ronald Roach, said since then these businesses have borne fruit, growing businesses that were non-exporters into exporters and improving the export relationships directly for businesses that were already exporting.

He shared insight on the progress of the trade missions at the TTMA’s post-budget conversations at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, the day after budget 2024 was read.

“The fact that we could have these successful missions back to back is a sign that they are working,” Roach said.

Reaching out to the region

The trade missions, of which there were five this year, are organised by a collaboration of the TTMA, the Ministry of Trade and Industry through its executing agency, ExporTT, and the Ministry of Finance through its executing agency, Eximbank.

Through these missions, more than 100 businesses were exposed to markets across the region. These missions are usually led by Roach, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, and leaders in Eximbank and ExporTT, and are a large part of the ExporTT Business Booster initiative, geared at expanding the nation’s non-energy sector.

In January a consortium led a mission to Grenada with 28 companies. In May, Gopee-Scoon led 16 companies on a mission to the Dominican Republic. In June, 17 companies visited Suriname on another mission, which was followed by their participation in the oil and gas summit. A total of 28 companies from TT were present, as well as the Energy Minister, Stuart Young. In August, they went to St Lucia with 21 businesses.

Roach said at the post-budget conversation that 31 businesses were at that time in Guyana on another mission, which ended on October 7.

Companies from the chemicals, printing and packaging, food and beverage, garments and construction sectors usually make up the delegations. Blue Waters, Lazurri Apparels, MIC Institute of Technology, Caribbean Safety Products and Angostura Ltd have accompanied the TTMA and the Trade Ministry on either one or several of these missions. “We are able, very able, to take a very deliberate mix of small, medium and large businesses on these missions,” he said.

On the latest mission, Roach said the delegation TT companies established in Guyana, such as Kamri Glass, Coosals Group, Ramps Logistics and Ansa McAl to get a first-hand experience and on-the-ground knowledge about the business environment.

“We want to know what assistance we can provide, as the body that represents them and make sure they continue to grow,” Roach said.

TTMA delegation to Grenada prior to departure

Missions bring business

Roach said the missions have had such a positive effect on local businesses that missions are growing with an increasing number of businesses coming in for the first time and more participating in multiple missions.

“Businesses don’t spend money willy-nilly,” he said. “That means that when these businesses are going overseas they are in fact bringing back orders.”

The cost of airfare, accommodation and transport alone to multiple countries in the region means a significant amount of money needed to take part in these missions. But Roach said the missions have already shown an increase in exports in his business as well as others, making them well worth the investment.

“We did our trade and investment convention in July. While we were walking through that convention I saw businesses that have never exported before with flags on their walls saying the were exporting to two countries, and to three countries and four or five.

“I can say in my own business, exports now are more than before, and that is directly as a result of these trade missions.”