Dr Gopeesingh calls for "meaningful discussions" with ArcelorMittal

Saturday, March 12, 2016 - 20:00

Caroni East Member of Parliament and former Minister of Education, Dr Tim Gopeesingh is calling on the Prime Minister to engage in "meaningful discussions" with steel manufacturers ArcelorMittal.

Dr Gopeesingh says the impact of the plants' closure on downstream industries can be dire.

The following is a statement from Dr Gopeesingh:

"The Dr. Keith Rowley administration must immediately engage Arcelor Mittal in meaningful discussions with a view to having the multinational enterprise continue its operations in Trinidad and Tobago.

Prime Minister Dr. Rowley must appreciate that his head-strong and arrogant approach to the current crisis will not see a resumption of operations by one of the leading international industrial corporations.

Dr. Rowley should develop a strategic approach and seek urgent discussions with Chairman Lakshmi Mittal and the local Managing Director. He should propose a framework of incentives, within business and timeframe parameters, aimed at a resumption of Arcelor Mittal’s operations. Such incentives must include worker compensation, competitive port charges, prices of natural gas, electricity and water, and other relevant concessions.

The Prime Minister must appreciate that the closure of the Arcelor Mittal operations bears dire implications beyond the displacement of some 700 full-time employees, their families and associated dependents.

The shutdown would also negatively impact the thriving local downstream steel sector, foreign exchange earnings and savings, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution, natural gas and electricity sales, port revenues, technology and quality standards implication and morale among workers, business and the general society.

In addition, the withdrawal of Arcelor Mittal could seriously hurt Trinidad and Tobago’s opportunities for direct foreign investments, in the competitive globalised environment.

Further, he should acknowledge the $1 million-a-day losses of the local steel operations, until the introduction of Ispat in 1978 and the multinational Arcelor Mittal in 2006.

The Prime Minister must recognise Arcelor Mittal as a primary global industrial player, with plants in 19 countries, significant investments in 60 countries and assets of more than TT $500 billion.

The steel corporation is no sidewalk cafe, and in that light, it is disheartening that Dr. Rowley’s Minister of Labour could not find time to honour the company’s recent request for a meeting.

As leader of an industrialised economy, Dr. Rowley must also understand the current challenges facing the international steel sector. Iron ore prices are now less than half of what they were two years ago, largely as a result of over-supply by China. Forecasts are for an improved market in about two years.

Arcelor Mittal has been forced to close plants, restructure, initiate a rights issue and generally cut operating costs.

 In the face of the major and calamitous consequences of the continued plant shutdown, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association must provide their own insights on this critical matter.

Moreover, the Prime Minister must provide perceptive, decisive leadership aimed at a satisfactory outcome, and abandon his harmful finger-pointing and haughtiness."