2020 Investment Climate Statements: Trinidad and Tobago
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Trinidad and Tobago (TT) is a high-income developing country with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $17,320 and an annual GDP of $23.9 billion (2018). It has the largest economy in the English-speaking Caribbean and is the third most populous country in the region with 1.4 million inhabitants. The International Monetary Fund predicts GDP for 2020 to fall by 4.5 percent due to the early 2020 collapse in global energy prices and the economic impact of coronavirus mitigation. TT’s investment climate is generally open and most investment barriers have been eliminated, but stifling bureaucracy and opaque procedures remain.
Positive aspects of TT’s investment climate:
Stable, democratic political system
Educated, English-speaking workforce
Well-capitalized and profitable commercial banking system and insurance industry
Established rule of law
Independent judicial system that is substantively fair
In certain sectors, lack of domestic competition
No foreign ownership limits
Negative aspects of TT’s investment climate:
Foreign exchange shortages that delay payments to foreign firms
Widespread perception of corruption among public officials
Lack of transparency in public procurement
Inefficient and complicated government bureaucracy
Time-consuming resolution of legal conflicts, such as enforcement of contracts
Energy exploration and production drive TT’s economy. This sector has historically attracted the most foreign direct investment. The energy sector usually accounts for approximately half of GDP and 80 percent of export earnings. Petrochemicals and steel are other sectors accounting for significant foreign investment. Since the economy is tethered to the energy sector, it is particularly vulnerable to fluctuating prices for hydrocarbons and petrochemicals.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The government of Trinidad and Tobago seeks foreign direct investment and has traditionally welcomed U.S. investors.
The U.S. Mission is not aware of laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors, but some have seen the decision-making process for tenders and the subsequent awarding of contracts turn opaque without warning, especially when their interests compete with those of well-connected local firms.
InvesTT is TT’s investment promotion agency that assists investors through the process of setting up a business and provides aftercare services once established. Specifically, it provides market information; offers advice on accessing investment incentives; and assists with regulatory and registry issues; property and location services; creation of business linkages; problem solving; and advocacy to the government. The TT International Financial Center is another investment promotion agency whose mission is to attract and facilitate foreign direct investment in the financial services sector.
While Trinidad and Tobago prioritizes investment retention, the U.S. Mission is not aware of a formal, ongoing dialogue with investors, either through an Ombudsman or formal business roundtable.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Both foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.
Under the Foreign Investment Act of 1990, a foreign investor is permitted to own 100 percent of the share capital in a private company. A license is required to own more than a 30 percent of a public company.
The U.S. Mission is not aware of any sector-specific restrictions to U.S. investors.
TT maintains an investment screening mechanism for specific projects that have been submitted for the purpose of accessing sector-specific incentives, such as for those offered in the tourism industry.
The government’s business facilitation efforts focus primarily on investor services (helping deal with rules and procedures) through its investment promotion agency and trying to make the rules more transparent and predictable overall. However, more work needs to be done to achieve efficient administrative procedures and dispute resolution. Trinidad and Tobago ranks 158th of 190 countries for registering property, 174th for enforcing contracts, and 166th for payment of taxes in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, representing a deterioration of indicators that reflect a difficulty of doing business.
The business registration website is www.ttbizlink.gov.tt. The process is clear but is not complete, as payments cannot be done online and aspects of the process must be completed in person. Foreign companies can use the website. The agencies with which a company must typically register include:
Companies Registry, Ministry of Legal Affairs
Board of Inland Revenue
National Insurance Board
Value Added Tax (VAT Office, Board of Inland Revenue)
The Global Enterprise Registration Network (GER) gives the TT business registration website a below-average score of 3 out of 10 for its single electronic window and 4.5 out of 10 for providing information on how to register a business. The inability to make online payments, submit certificates online, and engage in simultaneous requests are the three main reasons for the low score. A feedback mechanism allowing users to communicate with authorities is a strength of the TT business registration website. According to GER, two areas for improvement are:
Development of an online payment portal
Provision of online certificates
Business registration requires completion of seven procedures over a period of 10 days.
The host government does not promote or incentivize outward investment.
The host government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
TT has bilateral investment treaties (BIT) with Canada, China, France, Germany, Guatemala, India, Korea, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. TT has signed free trade agreements with the following countries, either bilaterally or as a part of CARICOM: Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Venezuela. TT is not currently engaged in any BIT or FTA negotiations.
A bilateral taxation treaty with the United States took effect in 1970: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-trty/trinidad.pdf. The Trinidad and Tobago government is in the process of modernizing its tax collection regime with the establishment of a new central revenue authority. There are no ongoing systemic tax disputes between the government and foreign investors or other taxation issues of general concern to U.S. investors.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms.
There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.
Rule-making and regulatory authority exist within the ministries and regulatory agencies at the national level. The government consults frequently, but not always, with international agencies and business associations in developing regulations. The government submits draft regulations to parliament for approval. The process is the same for each ministry.
Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms. IFRS standards are required for domestic public companies.
Proposed laws and regulations are often published in draft form for public comment, though there is no legal obligation to do so. The government solicits private sector and business community comments on proposed legislation.
All draft bills and regulations are printed in the official gazette, and an electronic version is available (listed below). The content is usually the actual draft text.
The U.S. Mission is not aware of an oversight or enforcement mechanism that ensures the government follows administrative processes.
There has not been any announcement regarding reforms to the regulatory system, including enforcement, since the last ICS report. Regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years, such as the mechanism to calculate and collect property tax and the establishment of the revenue authority, have not been fully implemented.
Establishment of the revenue authority is intended to increase collections and streamline the system for paying taxes.
At present, regulatory enforcement mechanisms are usually a combination of moral suasion and the use of applicable administrative, civil or criminal sanctions. The enforcement process is not legally reviewable.
Regulation is usually reviewed based on scientific- or data-driven assessments. Scientific studies or quantitative analyses are not made publicly available. Public comments received by regulators are generally not made public.
Public finances and debt obligations are transparent and publicly available on the central bank website
International Regulatory Considerations
Trinidad and Tobago is not part of a regional economic block, though it is part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a regional trading bloc that gives duty-free access to member goods, free movement to some members and establishes common treatment of non-members on specific issues. The Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) is an initiative currently being explored by CARICOM that would eventually integrate its member-states into a single economic unit. When fully completed, the CSME would succeed CARICOM.
Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally consistent with United Kingdom standards.
The government has not consistently notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of draft technical regulations.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
TT’s legal system is based on English common law. Contracts are legally enforced through the court system.
The country has a written commercial law. There are few specialized courts, making the resolution of legal claims time consuming. An industrial court exclusively handles cases relating to labor practices but also suffers from severe backlogs and is widely seen to favor claimants.
Civil cases of less than $2,250 are heard by the Magistrate’s Court. Matters exceeding that amount are heard in the High Court of Justice, which can grant equitable relief. There is no court or division of a court dedicated solely to hearing commercial cases.
TT’s judicial system is independent of the executive and the judicial process is competent, procedurally and substantively fair, and reliable, although very slow. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, Trinidad and Tobago ranks 174 of 190 in ease of enforcing contracts, and its court system requires 1,340 days to resolve a contract claim, nearly double the Latin American and Caribbean regional average.
Decisions may be appealed to the Court of Appeal in the first instance. The United Kingdom Privy Council Judicial Committee is the final court of appeal.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
TT’s judicial system respects the sanctity of contracts and generally provides a level playing field for foreign investors involved in court matters. Due to the backlog of cases, however, there can be major delays in the process. It is imperative that foreign investors seek competent local legal counsel. Some U.S. companies are hesitant to pursue legal remedies, preferring to attempt good faith negotiations in order to avoid an acrimonious relationship that could harm their interests in the country’s small, tight-knit business community.
There is no “one-stop-shop” website for investment providing relevant laws, rules, and procedures. Useful websites to help navigate foreign investment laws, rules, and procedures are:
The Fair-Trading Commission is responsible for promoting and maintaining fair competition in the domestic market. It is tasked with investigating the various forms of anti-competitive business conduct set out in the Fair-Trading Act. Legislation operationalizing this agency in 2006 was not proclaimed by the president until February 2020, so the agency is untested with regard to will and capacity to fulfill its mission.
Expropriation and Compensation
The government can legally expropriate property based on the needs of the country and only after due process including adequate compensation, generally based on market value. Various pieces of legislation make provisions for compulsory licensing in the interest of public health or intellectual property rights.
The U.S. Mission is not aware of any direct or indirect expropriation actions since the 1980s. All prior expropriations were compensated to the satisfaction of the parties involved. Energy sector contacts occasionally describe the tax regime as confiscatory, pointing to after-the-fact withdrawal or weakening of tax incentives offered to entice investment once investment occurs.
Claimants did not allege a lack of due process in prior expropriation cases.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
TT is a party to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) and the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York convention).
Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards according to chapter 20 of the Arbitration (Foreign Arbitral Awards) Act 1996.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The bilateral investment treaty between the United States and TT recognizes binding arbitration of investment disputes.
The U.S. Mission is not aware of any claims by U.S. investors under the bilateral investment treaty with the United States.
The U.S. Mission is unaware of any disputes involving U.S. or other foreign investors over the past 10 years.
There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Some of the available types of alternative dispute resolution include mediation and arbitration. The Civil Proceedings Rules encourage parties to make reasonable attempts to resolve their disputes amicably with litigation as a last resort. Mediation and arbitration are most commonly used.
There is a domestic dispute resolution center that offers arbitration services. Domestic legislation, the Arbitration Act of 1939, is based on early English arbitration legislation and is not modeled on internationally accepted regulations.
The U.S. Mission has no records of any investment disputes involving an SOE.
Creditors have the right to be notified within 10 days of the appointment of a receiver and to receive a final report, a statement of accounts, and an assessment of claim. Claims of secured creditors are prioritized under the Bankruptcy Act. No distinction is made between foreign and domestic creditors or contract holders. Bankruptcy is not criminalized.
The World Bank ranked TT 83rd of 190 countries in resolving insolvency in its Doing Business 2020 report. This reflects TT’s recovery rate (cents on the dollar), which is worse than the regional average, and cost as a percentage of estate.
4. Industrial Policies
Investment incentives include the following: exemption from import duties and customs duties; tax credits and deferrals; cash refunds; carry-over of losses; and access to loans. These are available equally to foreign and domestic investors, but delays in cash refund payments are a frequent complaint of those due them. Additional information is available on the following websites:
The government sometimes jointly finances foreign direct investment projects, but it not common. One recent example was the government-driven proposal for a Sandals resort in Tobago, for which the government would provide financing for the construction of the development. (This deal eventually fell through.)
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The Free Zones Act of 1988 (last amended in 1997) established the TT Free Zones Company (TTFZ) to promote export development and encourage both foreign and local investment projects in a relatively bureaucracy-free, duty-free, and tax-free environment. Foreign owned firms have the same investment opportunities as Trinidad and Tobago entities. There are currently 15 approved enterprises located in eight free zones. The majority are located within a multiple-user site in north-central Trinidad, but the minister of trade and industry can designate any suitable area in TT as a free zone.
Free zone enterprises are exempt from customs duties on capital goods, parts, and raw materials for use in the construction and equipping of premises and in connection with the approved activity; import and export licensing requirements; land and building taxes; work permit fees; foreign currency and property ownership restrictions; capital gains taxes; withholding taxes on distribution of profits and corporation taxes or levies on sales or profits; VAT on goods supplied to a free zone; and duty on vehicles for use only within the free zone.
A corporation tax exemption for entities that qualify for free zone status is also in force. Application to carry out an approved activity in an existing free zone area is made on specified forms to the TTFZ.
Free zone activities that qualify for approval include manufacturing for export, international trading in products, services for export, and development and management of free zones. Activities that may be carried on in a free zone but do not qualify as approved activities include exploration and production activities involving petroleum, natural gas, or petrochemicals. For more information, please review the following website: http://ttfzco.com/
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
The government does not mandate—although it strongly encourages, through negotiable incentives—projects that generate employment and foreign exchange; provide training and/or technology transfer; boost exports or reduce imports; have local content; and generally contribute to the welfare of the country.
The government does not mandate that locals be recruited to senior management and boards of directors.
Several foreign firms have encountered inconsistencies leading to long delays in the issuance of long-term work permits, but there are no explicit, onerous requirements.
There are no government/authority-imposed conditions on permission to invest.
There are no forced localization requirements.
There are no performance requirements, and thus no enforcement procedures. There is no indication of an intention to implement across-the-board performance requirements.
Investment incentives are uniform for domestic and foreign investors but offered on a case-by-case, vice across-the-board, basis.
There are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption.
There are no measures that prevent or restrict companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country.
There are no rules on local data storage within Trinidad and Tobago.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property rights and interests are enforced in court. Mortgages and liens exist. TT has a dual system of land titles, the old common law system and the registered land title system governed by the Real Property Act of 1946. Nearly 80 percent of land in TT remains under the more complicated common law system, which is not reliable for recording secured interests.
The Foreign Investment Act of 1990 governs the acquisition of any interest in land by foreign investors. It states that foreign investors wishing to acquire land larger than five acres must obtain a license from the Ministry of Finance. Licenses are generally granted in practice per the criteria provided here: https://www.finance.gov.tt/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/51.pdf.
It is not clear what proportion of land does not have clear title. The government does not make a defined effort to identify property owners and register land titles.
In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, Trinidad and Tobago ranked 158 out of 190 countries in ease of registering property. Reasons for the poor score include the number of procedures required (more than the regional average), the length of time required (more than the regional average) and the cost of registering property as a percentage of the property value.
Property ownership can revert to squatters if they can prove exclusive possession of another’s land, without permission, for at least 16 years in the case of private lands and 30 years on State lands.
Intellectual Property Rights
Trinidad and Tobago’s intellectual property rights (IPR) legal structure is strong, but enforcement is generally weak. Infringement on rights and theft is common.
Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). In 2019, Trinidad and Tobago acceded to four intellectual property treaties: 1) the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations; 2) the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks; 3) the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities; and 4) the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances. Each of these offers additional opportunity for international intellectual property rights-holders to enforce their rights in Trinidad and Tobago courts. Legislation necessary to accede to the 1989 Madrid Protocol on Trademarks has been pending since 2015, and implementing regulations remain in drafting for the 2000 Patent Law Treaty.
Trinidad and Tobago does not track seizures of counterfeit goods. At its May 2019 WTO Trade Policy Review, it reported one seizure in 2018. The country has prosecuted IPR violations in the past, but such prosecutions are uncommon.
TT returned to the United States Trade Representative Special 301 Report’s Watch List in 2020. Challenges concern widespread copyright infringement and the country’s lack of institutional commitment to enforce IPR.
Trinidad and Tobago is not included in the Notorious Markets List..
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The government welcomes foreign portfolio investment.
TT has its own stock market and has an established regulatory framework to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment. There is enough liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions.
Existing policies facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.
The government and central bank respect IMF article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payment and transfers for current international transactions. Shortages of foreign exchange, exacerbated by the government’s maintenance of the local currency at values higher than those which the market would bear, however, cause considerable delays in payments and transfers for international transactions.
A full range of credit instruments is available to the private sector. There are no restrictions on borrowing by foreign investors, who are able to access credit. Credit is allocated on market terms, but interest rates tend to be higher for foreign borrowers.
Money and Banking System
Banking services are widespread throughout urban areas, but penetration is significantly lower in rural areas.
The banking sector is healthy.
In 2019, the estimated total assets of Trinidad and Tobago’s largest banks was $21.9 billion.
TT has a central bank system.
Foreign banks may establish operations in TT provided they obtain a license from the central bank. Trinidad and Tobago has lost correspondent banking relationships in the past three years. The U.S. Mission is not aware of any current correspondent banking relationships that are in jeopardy.
There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment.
Shortages of foreign exchange, exacerbated by the government’s maintenance of the local currency at values higher than those which the market would bear, cause considerable delays in conversion into world currencies. Businesses continue to report a cumbersome bureaucratic process and a minimum three-month delay in such conversions.
The central bank intervenes to maintain an unofficial peg to the U.S. dollar, using a managed float in which the exchange rate fluctuates mildly day-to-day, and limits the availability of foreign currency.
While there are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies to tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances, commercial banks have enacted policies that limit access to foreign exchange due to national shortages, on guidance from the Ministry of Finance and the central bank.
Although there are no official time limitations on remittances, timeliness of remittances depends on availability of foreign currency.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
The value of TT’s Heritage and Stabilization Fund the fund as of April 2020 is approximately $5.9 billion, but a $1.1 billion withdrawal to support coronavirus-related economic measures is pending. The fund invests in U.S. short duration fixed income, U.S. core domestic fixed income, U.S. core domestic equities, and non-U.S. core international equities.
The SWF follows the voluntary code of good practices known as the Santiago Principles. TT participates in the IMF-hosted International Working Group on Sovereign Wealth Funds.
None of the SWF is invested domestically. There are no potentially negative ramifications for U.S. investors in the local market.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
TT has 55 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), comprised of 42 wholly owned companies, eight majority-owned, and four in which the government has a minority share. SOEs are in the energy, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, financial services, transportation, and communication sectors. Information on the total assets of SOEs, total net income of SOEs and number of people employed by SOEs is not available. The Investments Division of the Ministry of Finance appoints directors to the boards of state enterprises, reportedly at the direction of the minister of finance. SOEs are often informally or explicitly obligated to consult with government officials before making major business decisions. According to TT’s constitution, the government is entitled to:
exercise control directly or indirectly over the affairs of the enterprise
appoint a majority of directors of the board of directors of the enterprise
hold at least 50 per cent of the ordinary share capital of the enterprise
In sectors that are open to both the private sector and foreign competition, SOEs are sometimes favored for government contracts, which might negatively impact U.S. investors in the market.
The country has not adhered to the OECD corporate governance guidelines for SOEs.
TT does not have a privatization program in place, but the government has issued initial public offerings of various state-owned companies to obtain revenue, primarily in the finance and energy sectors.
Foreign investors can participate in the initial public offerings of SOEs.
There is general awareness of expectations of, and standards for, responsible business conduct (RBC), including obligations to proactively conduct due diligence to ensure businesses are doing no harm, including with regards to environmental, social, and governance issues.
The government has not put forward a clear definition of responsible business conduct, nor does it have specific policies to promote and encourage it. The government has not conducted a national action plan on RBC, nor does it currently factor it into procurement decisions.
There have not been any high-profile, controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights.
TT has laws to ensure protection of labor rights, consumers, and the environment. Enforcement, however, is lacking due to staffing shortages, capacity issues, and a bureaucratic judiciary.
Government, in collaboration with civil society, created the TT Corporate Governance Code, which incorporates governance, accounting, and executive compensation standards to protect shareholders. The code, however, is not mandatory.
The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago that freely advocates for responsible business conduct and improved corporate governance practices in the Caribbean.
The government does not encourage adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. There are no domestic measures requiring supply chain due diligence for companies sourcing minerals originating from conflict-affected areas.
As a member of the EITI, the government publicly declares annually all revenues received from companies engaged in the extractive industries. The companies, in turn, publicly declare payments to the government.
Various pieces of legislation address corruption of public officials:
The Integrity in Public Life Act requires public officials to disclose assets upon taking office and at the end of tenure.
The Freedom of Information Act gives members of the public a general right (with specified exceptions) of access to official documents of public authorities. The intention of the act was to address the public’s concerns of corruption and to promote a system of open and good governance. In compliance with the act, designated officers in each ministry and statutory authority process applications for information.
The Police Complaints Authority Act establishes a mechanism for complaints against police officers in relation to, among other things, police misconduct and police corruption.
The Prevention of Corruption Act provides for certain offences and punishment of corruption in public office.
The laws are non-discriminatory in their infrequent application. Effectiveness of these measures has been limited by a lack of thorough enforcement.
The laws do not extend to family members of officials or to political parties.
TT does not have laws or regulations to counter conflicts of interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.
The government has been a party to the development of corporate governance standards (non-binding) to encourage private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials.
Some private companies, particularly the larger ones, use internal controls and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials, though this is not a government requirement.
Trinidad and Tobago adheres to the UN Anticorruption Convention.
There are no protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption, but investigations are not feared since corrupt actors are rarely punished.
U.S. firms often say corruption is an obstacle to FDI, particularly in government procurement, since TT’s procurement processes are not transparent.
Resources to Report Corruption
Name: Mr. Justice Melville Baird
Organization: The Integrity Commission
Address: P.O. Box 1253, Port of Spain
The Integrity Commission of Trinidad and Tobago Level 14,
Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, 1A Wrightson Road, Port of Spain
Telephone number: 868-623-8305
Email address: email@example.com
Name: Mr. Dion Abdool
Organization: Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute (local chapter of Transparency International)
Address: Unit 4-12, Building 7, Fernandes Industrial Centre, Laventille
Telephone number: 868-626-5756
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Political and Security Environment
While non-violent demonstrations occur on occasion, widespread civil disorder is not typical. There have been no serious incidents of political violence since a coup attempt in 1990.
Subsequent to the closure of state oil firm Petrotrin in November 2018, which resulted in the lay-off of nearly 6,000 workers, there were reports of damage to installations.
Certain areas of TT are increasingly insecure due to a critical level of violent crime.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
In 2019, the International Labor Organization estimated unemployment at 2.8 percent. That figure, however, is artificially low due to government make-work programs that absorb excess labor. The labor market includes many skilled and experienced workers, and the educational level of the population is among the top 10 in North America, according to the Human Development Index, though there is a gap between official literacy statistics and functional literacy. In 2019, youth unemployment rate (15-24 years of age) was estimated at 6.41 percent.
Agricultural employment accounts for 3.6 percent of total employment while employment in services accounts for over 60 percent. The estimated non-agricultural workforce in the informal economy is 10 percent of the overall labor force. Trinidad and Tobago’s workforce includes not only TT nationals but also citizens of 11 other CARICOM countries as part of the free movement of labor without the need to obtain a work permit. In 2019, Trinidad and Tobago granted 16,523 “Venezuelan migrants” the right to work in the country for a period of one year under a temporary protective status. The Minister of National Security granted the Venezuelan migrants an automatic 6 months extension in 2020.
Trinidad and Tobago is a net importer of expatriate labor, including doctors, nurses, construction workers, and extractive industry specialists. There are surpluses of accountants and attorneys and shortages of unskilled workers for the hospitality, retail, and agriculture sectors. The government subsidizes tertiary-level education for citizens whose income falls within a minimum range. The Multi-Sector Skills Training Program provides training in construction and hospitality and tourism for eligible citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. The government also encourages continuing learning opportunities for the disadvantaged via the Skills Training Program, which develops skills that can aid in the creation of home-based production of goods and services and employment generation.
There is no government policy requiring hiring of nationals, though it is encouraged, particularly in the energy sector.
There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment to respond to fluctuating market conditions via severance. Labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing. The Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act provides guidance on who is entitled to receive what based on specific circumstances. Severance pay is usually only paid to retirees and workers who have been made redundant. An employer is not required to pay severance to workers if everyone is severed, since the business is being closed. If, however, only a portion of the workforce is rendered redundant, the employer must pay severance. Unemployment insurance does not exist for workers who have been laid off for economic reasons, but programs designed to help job seekers get employed as quickly as possible are available. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government instituted a 3-6-month unemployment benefit program for those laid off.
Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment. There are no separate labor law provisions for special economic zones, trade zones, or free ports.
Collective bargaining is common, with approximately 15 percent of the population covered by collective bargaining agreements. Government workers, including civil servants, police officers, firefighters, military personnel, and staff in several state-owned enterprises, are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Unions are also quite active in the energy, steel, and telecommunications industries. Collective bargaining takes place between the firm and the recognized majority union rather than on an industry-wide basis. The government as an employer also bargains collectively. The process of collective bargaining is regulated by the Industrial Relations Act. There are close to 30 active, independent labor unions in TT.
The Industrial Relations Act (IRA) provides for dispute resolution through an industrial court in instances where the issue cannot be resolved by collective bargaining or through conciliation efforts by the Ministry of Labor.
There was no strike in the past year that posed an investment risk.
The ILO has not identified any compliance gaps in law or practice regarding international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors. The government does not have a labor inspectorate system to identify and remediate labor violations, but the industrial court investigates and prosecutes unfair labor practices, such as harassment and/or improper dismissal of union members.
There were no new labor related laws or regulations enacted or in draft over the last year.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs
As a high-income country, Trinidad and Tobago is ineligible for DFC programs.
OPIC has a bilateral agreement with Trinidad and Tobago.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source*
USG or international statistical source
USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)
* Source for Host Country Data: Ministry of Finance.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
14. Contact for More Information
Name: Matt Ciesielski
Title: Economic and Commercial Officer
Address of Mission: 15 Queen’s Park West, Port of Spain. Trinidad and Tobago
Telephone Number: +1 (868) 622-6371 ext. 5926
Email address: email@example.com