STATEMENT BY LAWRENCE PLACIDE – PRESIDENT TTCSI AT THE OPENING DINNER AND GALA – SERVICES WEEK 2009
Honourable Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Mariano Browne
Mr Peter Kageyama,
Fellow Board Members of the TTCSI,
Mr. Nirad Tewarie and Members of staff of the TTCSI,
Fellow Service Providers
“And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?” – Mark Chapter 4 verse 21
Ladies and gentlemen
Some of you may be surprised that I am quoting scriptures. It is not my habit but this just seems so apt. It is precisely what we are doing for the services sector this week. We are putting the candle of the services sector in Trinidad and Tobago on a candlestick for all to see.
Over the next five days we will have events that will showcase the opportunities available in the services sector for new business and for new trade. I distinguish the two because in my opinion we have to be talking more about services trade in services business. Services business to me means transactions conducted within the domestic market. Trade, on the other hand, introduces the external variable.
We can have, as we do, the largest sector in the economy. We can be, as we are, the largest employers in the country. We can say, truthfully, that our services sector is the largest services sector in the CARICOM. We will continue to make these statements of fact continually until it is recognized by the national community.
But the impact of these statements will be diminished if we don’t improve the export performance of the sector. We need to show that we are earning foreign exchange for the country. So while sector development remains a critical goal of the TTCSI, that sector development must, in my view, be combined with export development.
To this end, TTCSI will be extremely active in initiatives to promote the growth of the exporting of our services sector. This includes trade missions. In December we will launch into the Central American market for our first trade mission. We hope that many of you here tonight accompany us.
It includes participation in trade negotiations. We have been active in the preparation for CARICOM’s upcoming engagement with Canada, supplying detailed comments on the CARICOM Brief on a draft CARICOM text. We will, as funding permits, be present at the negotiations themselves. And we will continue to be engaged with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to promote and protect where necessary the trading interests of our members.
It will also include assistance in the negotiation of mutual recognition agreements for key sectors, particularly professional services. In fact this week we will on Thursday have two half-day seminars on issues involved in the negotiation of mutual recognition agreements with particular relevance to the accounting, architecture, and engineering professions. The focus will not only be on the European market but also on perspectives for negotiating such agreements with Canada as well. Now I really must make the point that mutual recognition agreements certainly can help exporting but they are not a precondition to exporting. The fact that we don’t have a mutual recognition agreement with a particular market does not prevent us from exporting into that market. After this week we hope to work with other coalitions in the region to deepen our work in this area.
We also recognize, and we will work assiduously with our members and with government to ensure that all recognize, that we must improve the regulations that guide services activity in this country. This will not only provide protection for our citizens but will also support exporting by showing to potential external customers that services provided in this country are provided based on the highest international standards.
This week of activities will serve to continue the aggressive promotion of the services sector and the role of the TTCSI in so doing that has characterized the last six months of our activity. We trust that you have noticed that this organization is no longer content to work quietly in the shade. On the contrary, we are determined to show our members, prospective members, the government, and the people of Trinidad and Tobago that this organization is committed to its mission to monitor and assess the global business environment, to facilitate and assist the local services sector to become increasingly competitive internationally, to contribute to the development and growth of the national economy and.
To do this, or to help this come about, we will represent and support the services sector both locally and internationally
We will be a valuable resource for the government in all its negotiations that affect services both internally as we seek to accomplish the single market in the region and externally with important trading partners
We are committed to working with our coalition partners in the region and in fact to provide leadership to support the regional growth of the sector
We will become a key information service provider both to and for the services industry
We will lobby for issues that are priorities of our member associations and we will provide training and research for our members.
To do all this we recognize, and I’m sure the Honourable Minister will be pleased to know that we recognize, we must become a financially viable organization. We have benefited, in fact we would not be here without the commitment and support of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
I say wherever I go in the region and beyond that this process of creating a viable TTCSI is a great example of public private sector partnership. Minister Browne, you and your predecessors do deserve a great commendation from the sector for your vision first of all and for your unstinting support for this project. I thank you on behalf of the Board of the TTCSI and all its members once again.
And I’m often asked about the type of influence the Ministry exerts or has sought to exert on this organization. I say truthfully that having been involved in this organization from its inception indeed in the planning stages to its inception I cannot remember one single occasion on which we were asked to take a particular position by the government or to make a particular statement in support of or against any particular matter.
All that the government has asked is that we do what we were created to do and that we do so in a manner that is responsible and transparent. So we will continue to work towards financial viability even as we continue to gain the financial support of the government of Trinidad and Tobago.
So bringing the services sector into the light would also be a sign of confidence. Selling services is also about confidence. It’s about being sure that the product of your mind will be useful even indispensable to your client. That confidence is needed even more when you try to export those services because you are confronted with persons who perhaps doubt your capabilities or your knowledge or they may come from a different culture, speak a different language. I’m sure our featured speaker tonight will talk a bit about what we have to be proud of and confident about in Trinidad and Tobago.
But even the most confident among us and the most competent among us needs a little help from time to time. This is where we would like to suggest that government take a decisive step and establish a working network of professionals that are tasked with helping us develop new markets abroad.
In other words we are saying that we need a trade Commissioner service or trade consuls or trade attaches. Call them what you like -their job should be to promote the services and goods trade of Trinidad and Tobago. In my experience this idea has come along every few years with perhaps some work done, perhaps an individual here or there is sent to one mission or another, sometimes they experience a little bit of success, most of the time they are frustrated. It is time that we do this and get it right.
Realistically, we are the only country in the region that can do this. And we can be a little bit creative as to where we place our personnel. Perhaps we need to look at starting off with our mission in Costa Rica or India rather then Miami or the UK.
And possibly we’d see more success by seeking out young, active, intelligent and modern confident persons rather than, shall I say, more experienced one. I had a conversation the other day with a young woman who told me quite confidently that her goal is not to lead the company in which she works. That, she dismissed as a given. No, she wants to be the most powerful woman in the Caribbean in 10 years. She wants to be the person who Caribbean governments come to for financial advice. I don’t know if she will accomplish her goal but I do know that she is the kind of person that I want promoting my services overseas.
That is the attitude we all need to have in the services sector. Some of our Caribbean partners dismiss our economic success as luck, due to our mineral endowments. ”You all have oil”, they say, as if that explains everything.
What is beautiful and exciting about services trade is that we can all do it. In the smallest country, and we are pretty small, there can be services capable of being exported. Economies of scale are not as important as the scale of your imagination.
With this firmly in mind, it truly is a pleasure to be part of the TTCSI project that has among its aims ”to encourage national service providers through their associations to engage in development and promotional activities that will facilitate an increase in exports and competitiveness of the services sector.” This National Services Week and the ones to follow in coming years will be critical in demonstrating that our confidence in the service providers of Trinidad and Tobago is in no way misplaced.