The regionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exports seemed to have suffered as a result of the recession in Europe, slowdown in China and moderate growth in United States according to Economic Commission Latin America and CaribbeanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2012 report. Latin America and the Caribbean fell from 22.3 per cent in 2011 to an estimated 1.6 per cent in 2012.
And now, T&T must continue to diversify its markets and boost its trade. T&T Coalition of Services Industry (TTCSI) plays a very critical role in this area as its mandate is to export services, build capacity, diversify, formalise the informal sector and assist in growing the industry. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Our role is to develop the services sector and make them more sustainable by creating a vibrant and encouraging environment through trade missions and other platforms,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Nirad Tewarie, TTCSIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chief executive officer, in an interview.
The services sector is the largest sector in T&TÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s economy, contributing annually on average $43 billion (US$ 6.8 billion) to gross domestic product (GDP) accounting for over 60 per cent of GDP during 2001-2005. It employs an average of 80 per cent of the labour force (422,000 people). However, Tewarie stated that there was a decline last yearÃ¢â‚¬â€49 per cent of the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s GDP.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Despite this large contribution to GDP, the services sector accounts for less than ten per cent of T&TÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s export market. So clearly there is a need for greater maximisation of the potential of services in terms of export diversification.Ã¢â‚¬Â
TTCSI, which started with approximately 20 members three years ago, has now grown to about 43 members and includes the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Energy Chamber, BankersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Association, National Carnival Development Foundation, Credit Union League, Private Hospitals Association and the Green Building Council.
How can services industry benefit?
Carnival is a major example of how the services industry could benefit from its exporting potential. Dr Keith Nurse, World Trade Organisation chair at UWIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Cave Hill campus, noted in a previous article that Carnival has the potential to earn about $1.8 billion. So exporting these services like wire bending and mas costume designs to diaspora carnivals would redound to the benefit of the sector and by extension the country.
Fashion is another example
Arising out of a trade mission held last October, Meiling now has sales agents in London. Meiling, Anya Ayoung-Chee and Rachel Ross, among others, had the opportunity to showcase their talent at London Fashion Week, which was held at the May Fair Hotel. The audience included international buyers, media, fashion, music and creative industry professionals, Tewarie said.
Three architects, two engineers and three entertainers were also taken to five countries in Europe and some of them are already benefiting from the trip. Essentially, Tewarie said, the aim is to expand business activities in the services sector, inculcate better business acumen in the micro and small business and work with the service providers and firms that are ready for exports. Tewarie said the association must also find innovative ways to spread the message.
On the cards
The TTCSI is now working on several projects:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Contractual arrangement with Central Statistical Office on data collection on four sectorsÃ¢â‚¬â€health, education, yachting industry and professional services (architects, surveyors, engineers) Tewarie said a project was done with the Commonwealth Secretariat last year and the results showed that the above sectors have great potential for export markets. TTSCI, he said, would be focusing on those sectors for 2013.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Working on a draft mutual recognition with the European Union so that the qualifications of local architects could be recognised
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Collaborating with the energy sector for data collection on all those who are currently engaging their export services internationally
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Annual excellence in service awards
Tewarie said going forward was a challenging task because itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about trying to change the mindset of these organisations. Many of them, he stated, export their services without realising it. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Another factor TTSCI has to contend with is fear. Some of them are afraid to take the risk and launch out. Ã¢â‚¬Å“However, the local environment posed a great challenge as well because it is not quite facilitating.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The country must address the issues of proper policy, current and relevant legislation, financing, lack of data and commitment to local content.Ã¢â‚¬Â Tewarie said if the locals are not participating in meaningful contracts, this hampers their ability to export their services internationally because they are not given the opportunity to develop their expertise locally. He explained there are four ways to export services:
1 Selling services across the border
By selling your service to a foreigner in your country you are exporting tourism. Then people come here to buy your services like education
2 Selling your service electronically via the Internet
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Call centres or someone could call an artiste for a vocal/music and it is mixed and sent and they never see each other.Ã¢â‚¬Â
3 You can go abroad and export your service
Wire benders and designers of mas, consultants, engineers.
4 Invest in a business in a foreign country
Ã¢â‚¬Å“When things get difficult in your country, you have another revenue stream. Exporting has the potential to strengthen a business and assist in making the local economy stronger. One of the spin-offs is creation of jobs when the business begins to expand.Ã¢â‚¬Â