Trinidad and Tobago has one of Latin America’s highest per capita incomes. The country is a major supplier of liquid natural gas to the United States, as well as the world’s largest exporter of methanol and ammonia.
The country’s impressive economic performance came to a halt in 2009 when the economy entered a recession as a result of a drop in oil prices.
Since then, the economy has experienced several years of subpar growth, with performance hampered significantly by supply constraints.
The number of unemployed people is higher than it should be due to a variety of structural factors.
Other challenges include the energy sector’s high capital intensity, skill mismatches, and labor market rigidities that limit wage flexibility.
Trinidad and Tobago experienced another year of slow growth in 2016.
Real GDP growth fell by 2.8 percent in 2016 after increasing by 1 percent in 2015.
Recovery is expected in 2017, with a growth of 2.3 percent, owing in part to higher energy prices.
Low energy prices had constrained government spending and sharply reduced growth rates. Their commodity exports had also declined.
Slow wage and household income growth are limiting consumer spending. Another issue is the depletion of natural gas reserves.
The real value of private final consumption increased by 1.5 percent in 2015 but is expected to fall by 2.3 percent in 2016.
Wage and household income growth have slowed significantly.
Furthermore, in 2016, a highly unpopular value-added tax on many previously untaxed items, including basic foods, was imposed.
Following a long period of healthy current account surpluses, the surplus fell to 0.7 percent of GDP in 2015.
In 2016, a deficit of 0.8 percent of GDP is expected.
A fiscal consolidation process may soon become necessary.
Trinidad And Tobago is the CBATO region’s largest export market and the region’s fourth largest overall.
Exports of consumer-oriented food products in the United States fell 7 percent to 220 million dollars in 2016 from the previous year.
Total agricultural exports from the United States fell 9 percent to 349.4 million dollars.
Consumer-oriented exports accounted for 63 percent of total agricultural exports.
In 2016, US processed food exports to the market totaled 192.8 million dollars, a 1 percent decrease but the highest total in the CBATO region.
Food preparations, non-alcoholic beverages, processed or prepared dairy products, fats and oils, snack foods, prepared or preserved meats, chocolate and confectionery, and pasta and processed cereals were among the top processed food products exported from the United States to Trinidad and Tobago in 2016.
There are numerous benefits for US exporters in the Trinidad and Tobago market.
Due to limited agricultural production, Trinidad and Tobago must import the majority of its food.
The United States is the leading supplier of imported consumer-oriented foods to Trinidad and Tobago, with a 44 percent market share that dwarfs all other competitors.
Exposure to US media, as well as language, cultural, and commercial ties with the US, all contribute to consumers favoring US products.
At the moment, the regulatory environment is fairly open to US products. Proximity is a huge benefit. US exporters, particularly south Florida consolidators, service the market extremely well and are, in many ways, better positioned to supply Trinidad and Tobago than competitors.
Market challenges exist and come from both within and outside the market. Despite its domestic agricultural limitations, Trinidad and Tobago has a thriving food processing sector.
Local Trinidad and Tobago suppliers of wheat flour, poultry, pork, beverages, snacks, biscuits, sauces, and other processed products will compete with US suppliers.
Many major U.S. brands are already available through local importers or distributors.
New products may find it difficult to compete with these brands and to find an importer who does not carry competing brands.
The 2008 trade agreement between the Caribbean and the European Union paved the way for increased European competition.
Trinidad and Tobago, as a CARICOM member, provides duty-free access to other CARICOM members.
This has a positive effect on the price appeal of regional goods that may compete with US products in certain categories.
Although Trinidad and Tobago is one of the Caribbean’s largest markets, individual orders are typically small and favor mixed rather than full container loads.
Exports of agricultural and food products from the United States fell slightly in 2016 as foreign exchange supplies tightened and consumer spending became more frugal.
In these lean times, US suppliers are also more likely to face competitive pressure.
New Zealand, the world’s second-largest importer, is competitive in dairy and lamb.
Canada, which ranks third overall, has a relatively strong presence in many branded products, seafood, potato products, and pork.
Europe competes in the market as well, particularly with branded goods and dairy.
Costa Rica has also begun to make inroads into the market, particularly in the produce sector.
Suppliers from the United States face competition both within Trinidad and Tobago and from neighboring Caribbean islands.
As previously stated, Trinidad and Tobago has a fairly developed food processing industry, and a wide range of consumer-oriented food and beverage products are available locally.
Barbadian and Jamaican products are particularly popular in Trinidad and Tobago.
Local and regional suppliers are frequently more adept at catering to the market’s distinct “Trini” palate, which is influenced by a variety of ethnic groups.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Top 10 Exports
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, a Caribbean twin-island country on South America’s northern coast, shipped an estimated 6.7 billion dollars in goods around the world in 2020.
This figure represents a minus 22.2 percent decrease since 2016 and a minus 38.9 percent decrease from 2019 to 2020.
According to the most recent available country-specific data from 2015, 76.2 percent of Trinidad and Tobago’s exports were purchased by importers in the following countries: the United States of America with 41.7 percent of the global total, Argentina with 6.8 percent, Colombia with 4.1 percent, Peru with 3.9 percent, Chile with 3.6 percent, Spain with 3 percent, Jamaica with 2.9 percent, Brazil with 2.3 percent, France with 2.2 percent, Guyana with 2 percent, the United Kingdom with 1.9 percent, and Norway with 1.8 percent.
Given the Caribbean nation’s 1.4 million population, Trinidad and Tobago’s total of 6.7 billion dollars in 2020 exports equates to approximately 4,800 dollars for each resident. This figure is down from 6,600 dollars per person a year ago.
The export product groups listed below have the highest dollar value in TrinidadianTobagonian global shipments in 2020.
The percentage share of each export category in terms of total Trinidad and Tobago exports is also shown.
Mineral fuels, including oil, are worth 3.4 billion dollars accounting for 50.1 percent of total exports
1.1 billion dollars for organic chemicals at 16.2 percent
842.1 million dollars for inorganic chemicals at 12.5 percent
492.8 million dollars for iron and steel at 7.3 percent
378.2 million dollars for fertilizers at 5.6 percent
53 million dollars in beverages, spirits, and vinegar at 0.8 percent
50.7 million dollars for machinery, including computers at 0.8 percent
44 million dollars for miscellaneous food preparations at 0.7 percent
33.5 million dollars for fish at 0.5 percent
Iron or steel articles with 33.2 million at 0.5 percent
The top ten exports from Trinidad and Tobago are highly concentrated, accounting for 94.9 percent of the total value of its global shipments.
Among the top ten export categories, there were two gainers from 2019 to 2020: fish went up by 16.7 percent, and miscellaneous food preparations up by 4.6 percent.
Machinery, including computers, was the leading decliner among Trinidad and Tobago’s top ten export categories, falling by minus 85 percent year on year.
In terms of macroeconomics, Trinidad and Tobago’s total exported goods account for 19.2 percent of its overall GDP in 2020 valued at 35 billion dollars in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars.
In 2020, exports will account for 19.2 percent of total GDP in PPP terms, compared to 20.3 percent in 2019.
Those percentages indicate a decreasing reliance on products sold in international markets for Trinidad and Tobago’s total economic performance, albeit over a short timeframe.
The unemployment rate is another important indicator of a country’s economic performance.
According to Trading Economics, the unemployment rate in Trinidad and Tobago is expected to be 5.8 percent in January 2021, up from 4.4 percent in July 2019.
The capital city of Trinidad and Tobago is Port of Spain, which also serves as the country’s largest cargo port.