The agreement would among other objectives reduce or eliminate tariffs, now in place, on a number of the products.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Communications Dr Suruj Rambachan told the media prior to the start of the talks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Tower C, International Waterfront, Port-of- Spain that reaching agreements with Guatemala “is to ensure the Central American region becomes close partners with (TT) in matters of trade and culture.”
Noting that trade is one of TT’s planks for development, Rambachan said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has led trade delegations — including trade — to India, Brazil and Panama. She will visit China and South Africa later this year.
TT has also signed a partial scope agreement with Panama, and Panama’s president Ricardo Martinelli, Rambachan announced will attend the Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF) to be held in Port-of-Spain next month. The CIF will be held on May 14 and May 15.
In promoting trade relations with Latin and Central America, he said that El Salvador, Ecuador and Nicaragua have also indicated their interests.
TT, he said, has had a measure of success with some South American countries including Colombia, which has reopened an embassy here, Ecuador has sent in a diplomatic note for a non-resident ambassador, and Peru has placed an honorary consul in Trinidad.
Head of the Guatemalan delegation, Sonia Lain Siesta Fiesta, in brief remarks said for Guatemala, relations with the Caribbean makes sense not only in trade but in cultural cooperation among other areas.
TT and Guatemala already have investors in each others’ countries and, she said Guatemala was looking forward to receiving TT negotiating delegation in another couple of weeks.
In brief remarks, Trade Minister Stephen Cadiz said that a trade agreement with Guatemala signals new market access for local exporters beyond regional and traditional markets.
“TT has the potential,” he said, “to absorb our manufactured products from food and beverage, agriculture and agro-processing, light manufacturing sectors, and energy products.”
Over the past five years, Cadiz said that the two countries has had a positive trade balance with TT exports amounting to over US$36 million annually. Guatemala ranks 39 out of 110 TT trading partners.
Guatemala, the largest economy in the Central American Common Market with a GDP of US$51.5 billion, is the most populous country in Central America with 15.3 million people.
Calling on the business community to take advantage of trade agreements and provisions already in place, Cadiz said that trade with Central American and wider Caribbean markets has opened opportunities for TT from a market of five million to 70 million.