Selling Trinidad & Tobago’s services | Contact Magazine

The services sector is turning in a strong performance, but is yet to become a viable exporter. A national exporters’ services registry and export training are just two of the initiatives TTCSI will launch in 2019 to help grow the services economy

by Vashti G. Guyadeen, General Manager, Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries

Published in CONTACT Magazine


 

This year’s World Economic Forum held in Switzerland in January focused on the “Industrial Revolution 4.0”. This refers to the significant role that automation and data analytics play in transforming manufacturing processes.

IR 4.0 has not only impacted manufacturing. According to Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, “the Fourth Industrial Revolution, finally, will change not only what we do but also who we are.

“It will affect our identity and all the issues associated with it: our sense of privacy, our notions of ownership, our consumption patterns, the time we devote to work and leisure, and how we develop our careers, cultivate our skills, meet people, and nurture relationships.” 

Without a doubt, IR 4.0 will also impact the services sector. The question is, how prepared are Trinidad and Tobago services providers and industries for these changes?

Strong local performance

In Trinidad and Tobago, services’ contribution to GDP in 2017 was estimated at 50.8%, while agriculture and industry stood at 0.4% and 48.8% respectively (TTCSI, 2016). The services sector, unlike the hydrocarbon sector, has experienced significant growth despite external shocks attributed to the recent fall in global oil prices.

But despite a strong performance locally, the sector is yet to become a viable foreign exchange earner: its export performance has been poor compared with manufacturing and energy. While the sector has been earmarked to fast-track national diversification, it falls short in its ability to increase its trade and earning power – a situation reflected in Trinidad and Tobago’s negative trade balance (exports minus imports) in international trade in services.

For the period 2011 to 2016, there was a reported negative trade balance in regard to international trade in services, with services accounting for only 28% of exports in 2011 (TTCSI, 2016). Clearly there are great opportunities to accelerate growth in the services sector.

Net importer of services

The European Union, in an assessment of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Cariforum, noted that international trade in services has assumed a significant dimension in the sustainable development and economic growth strategies of Cariforum states, and commitments in external trade arrangements are critical in advancing the region’s prospects.

The data in Table 1 show that Trinidad and Tobago is a net importer of services. However, in relative terms we are also a key exporter of services compared with other Cariforum states.

Trinidad and Tobago’s primary services exports are travel, transport and commercial services. We also have a comparative advantage in several sub-sectors including education services; cultural and creative services; professional services; and health services. It is imperative that support systems and the enabling environment are developed to foster growth in these sectors

Photo courtesy Christina Morello / Pexels.Com

Championing the services sector

The Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI)  will embark on a number of initiatives in 2019 to propel growth in the services economy.

Foremost on the agenda is data analytics. One of the key projects we have undertaken, with the support of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, is the development of a national exporters’ services registry. This will be invaluable in measuring the sector and giving government and the TTCSI better information, in order to provide knowledge-driven products which stimulate growth.

Secondly, the TTCSI will execute a robust training schedule this year, including rollout of the Services Go Global (SGG) training programme. SGG was developed by Caribbean Export over eight years ago specifically to optimise the Cariforum region’s export of services. It aimed to develop the capacity of service providers and industries to capitalise on opportunities under the EPA, with a focus on export readiness.

Participants will be guided through a four-stage road map showing how to propel their businesses onto the international stage. The TTCSI is the only certified agency locally to offer this training. SGG will be conducted in four sector clusters – creative and cultural industries including animation; tourism; health and wellness; and energy services.

The key ingredient in “going global” is ensuring that service providers and industries meet global standards and certification. This issue is also being tackled by the TTCSI, and plans are in train to collaborate with the relevant agencies to ensure that our member associations and their members are equipped to trade regionally and globally.

The key ingredient in “going global” is ensuring that service providers and industries meet global standards and certification. This issue is also being tackled by the TTCSI, and plans are in train to collaborate with the relevant agencies to ensure that our member associations and their members are equipped to trade regionally and globally.

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