GARLAND FOR MRS ABE: Standard five pupil Kareena Roopchand, left, garlands Akie Abe, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, upon her arrival at Springvale Hindu Primary School yesterday for an official visit. See Page 5. —Photos: DEXTER PHILIP

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TOKYO CALLING

PM: T&T to set up Embassy in Japan, InvestTT office

By \\\\\ Ria Taitt Political Editor

Trinidad and Tobago will establish an InvestTT office in Tokyo to accommodate trade and investment flows.

This was announced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday following the Japan/Caricom Summit at the Hilton hotel in St Ann’s.

Persad-Bissessar said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had expressed an interest in having a Trinidad and Tobago embassy in Tokyo. 

“We will give due consideration to that. But in the interim, (and possibly in addition to) we have agreed immediately that InvestTT will establish a presence in Japan to establish an embassy in Tokyo,” the Prime Minister said. She added that Trade Minister (Vasant Bharath) would expedite this measure.

She said “immediate consideration” was being given to the issue of a Trinidad and Tobago embassy in Japan “as we believe it may facilitate increased tourism, trade and investment opportunities, not only for Trinidad and Tobago, but also for fellow Caricom member states”. 

The Prime Minister noted there was collaboration in the private sector between the Mitsubishi Consortium and Massy Holdings for a TT$5.4 billion petrochemical plant. “The project is the largest gas-based initiative planned within the last five years and is seen as an anchor project for the South West Peninsula of Trinidad and Tobago. It will generate employment opportunities with a peak construction work force of approximately 3,000 and permanent employment of approximately 30 persons,” she noted.

Persad-Bissessar also said that as a result of the Caricom and Japan summit, she wanted to assure Prime Minister Abe that “we are ready and open for business”. She took note of the resilience and fortitude of the people of Japan, who faced the severe 2008 global financial crisis and the 2011 great East Japan earthquake.  “What was inspiring was to see the people and Government of Japan face these tremendous adversities frontally, paving the way for what is today a revitalised economy,” Persad-Bissessar said. 

She noted that Japanese goods accounted for 3.3 per cent of the total value of Trinidad and Tobago imports in 2013. The imports comprised mainly automobiles, diesel-powered trucks and buses, automobile parts and tuna. 

Persad-Bissessar said Japan was this country’s seventh-largest export partner in 2013. Exports were estimated at TT$1.28 billion in goods. LNG, followed by cocoa beans, bitumen and asphalt comprised the majority of Trinidad and Tobago exports to Japan. The balance of trade between both countries in 2013 was in Trinidad and Tobago’s favour. 


Caricom sees greater ties


Chairman of Caricom Gaston Browne said Caricom members welcomed Japan’s recognition of the vulnerabilities of small-island development and low-lying coastal states, “in particular the challenge of accessing concessionary financing for those of us characterised as middle-income countries”. 

“The case, therefore, would need to be made to the international community by developing partners such as Japan for new alternative sources of development financing to be made available to Caricom states and other middle-income countries with similar vulnerabilities,” Browne said, adding that Japan’s support through using its influence in institutions where these determinations are made was stressed at the summit. 

“Caricom would welcome Japan’s assistance in advocating on behalf of the region in fora such as the United Nations, G20, so there could be a better understanding of the problems these countries face,” he said.

Browne said the key to the development of Caricom countries is long-term financing from non-traditional sources including investors in the Middle East and Asia. He said Caricom countries expressed an interest in entering into discussions with private Japanese financiers on development financing for the region and also for establishing public/private sector partnership. 

Browne said Caricom expressed the hope that with appropriate measures such as aid for trade and assistance in developing the technology sector, Caricom could move towards addressing the sizeable trade imbalance with Japan. Tourism, energy and renewable energy and the implementation of a preventive approach to national disaster and reducing risks were also discussed, he said.  


Region eyes investment


Caricom Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, in remarks at the summit, said for Caricom, the effects of natural disasters and climate change were an issue of survival. “There are signs that in at least one member state sea level rise has begun to take a destructive effect,” he said. 

“We also welcome foreign direct investment as a means of stimulating growth in our economies. It that regard, it is my hope that the private sector members of the Japanese delegation would recognise the attractiveness of our region for investment, thus adding another element to our relationship,” he said.

LaRocque also spoke of the significant contribution of the Government of Japan to the construction of Caricom headquarters in Guyana. “This will not be forgotten. It is a concrete example of the interest of Japan that symbolises the support your country has provided for the development of our community,” LaRocque stated. 

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