A workman at the TCL plant in Claxton Bay. (Image: RISHI RAGOONATH)

The Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA) has come out in support of recent moves by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to ensure fair trade practices in the cement industry.

According to a statement issued today by the organisation, cement is one of this country’s major exports, and it is imperative that measures are employed to ensure it remains competitive, and that local investors and manufacturers have the right environment in which to thrive.

“These measures balance the market’s demand while supporting local investment in manufacturing and avoids the negative impact which unregulated imports have on undermining the competitiveness of the domestic manufacturing sector, and impact on the national economy through the sub-optimal utilization of foreign exchange,” the TTMA statement notes.

The business lobby points to its Manufacturing Export Strategy, which has the goal of growing the export sector to TT$7 Billion by 2025, and places specific emphasis on the country’s top five exports—food, paper, beverage, minerals (Cement) and spirits.

“Phase One of the TTMA’s Manufacturing strategy is to stabilise the domestic market and prioritize local manufacturers. Our 2025 vision to increase exports will strengthen domestic capacity, assure sustainability, and create the right environment to grow exports and grow revenues,” the release states.  “In this regard, the TTMA supports the recent trade measures announced by the Ministry of Trade and Industry in respect of the cement industry.”

The TTMA observes that the Manufacturing Industry contributes significantly to the employment and economic landscape of Trinidad and Tobago, employing 10% of the overall workforce— some 52,300 workers—and contributing approximately 19% of GDP.  As such, it says, it is imperative the value of these key export industries is recognised, particularly how they support the domestic market by locally manufacturing their products in T&T.

The TTMA also underscores the importance of regulations, testing, tax compliance and internationally recognized certification programs, to improving T&T’s global competitiveness.

“These requirements are not restrictions. They are a baseline for guaranteeing quality products, productive work environments, acceptable packaging and favourable environmental controls that foster a healthy domestic and export market,” the TTMA says.  “A local manufacturers’ product quality, pricing and marketing, must be globally competitive to survive. We are no longer limited to, or insulated by, domestic markets.”

“While the TTMA’s export strategy designates the private sector as the influencer, it also recognizes components that the Government must lead and influence,” the business lobby adds.  “We have reviewed Government’s strategy for the sector and are pleased that both our Association and the Public Sector are united in purpose to realise an expansion of the manufacturing sector, grow exports, increase foreign exchange earnings and provide more job opportunities for citizens.”