TT and Chile already have a profitable trade relationship as the two countries have been trading billions of dollars in goods with each other for a number of years. Our two countries have a substantial trade relationship where we exchange a wide list of items, goods and services, from natural gas – our main export to the South American country – to raisins and wine.
Newly-appointed Ambassador of Chile, Juan Annibal Barria, believes, though, that TT has the capacity to trade even more with Chile and the rest of the Caribbean in a resource that is not regularly considered a tradable commodity – our culture.
Barria, in a recent conversation with Business Day, said he believed that, with the nation’s constant consideration of diversification from energy industries – which in recent times have been seeing a downturn in profits – culture was a renewable and highly marketable resource. He said our culture was one that would not only interest the Chilean people, but would be profitable regionally and worldwide.
“TT is a great country with a rich culture and a culturally diverse people, which can be an asset in worldwide markets,” Barria said. “The TT spirit is innovative, creative, strong-willed and capable. TT has the capacity to mix culture, music, and other forms of expression which would turn a huge profit.”
The ambassador said our music, food, and natural style were several characteristics that would not only attract several Spanish-speaking nationals to our shores but could act as commodities that can be exported.
Barria, who only took up the job as ambassador in September last year, has already become a fan of soca and calypso music, and he is not the only one. He said Chile, which has a population of roughly 18 million, has a huge soca and calypso following, adding that the genres could only compound their current international success if they were marketed to Chileans.
“Last year, one of our favourites was Kees Dieffenthaller’s Hello. This year, personally, I was a fan of Mr Killa’s Run wid it and Farmer Nappy’s Hookin’ Meh," Barria said.
He told Business Day he was also a fan of Calypso Rose and Singing Sandra.
Barria added that Chileans visit Caribbean countries, especially during their winter seasons in June, July and August. However, they limit themselves to the Spanish-speaking islands, and Jamaica. That could change if TT promotes its culture to Chile.
“Chile would be the perfect place to promote tourism for TT,” Barria said. “TT is in a perfect geographic location and has a powerful middle class, and it would only serve to benefit both countries if TT would open its doors.
“Carnival, for example, is not just a two-day event. Carnival has several fetes, historical events, competitions and so on, and that would attract not only Chileans but people of the Caribbean as well if it gets the right kind of promotion.”
Barria said our entertainment industries are not the only cultural attractions that could be exported. TT’s culture of training people in engineering and technical fields may also be helpful to Chile. He pointed out that while Chilean culture encourages people to be attracted to subjects connected to social science and liberal arts, TT has a high number of engineering and technical students, versed in computer technology, oil and gas and engineering.
TT’s technical expertise, then, would only serve to bolster the billion-dollar relationship with Chile.
Last year, according to statistics sent by the Chilean Embassy, TT traded more than US$6 billion worth of natural gas with Chile, while TT bought millions of dollars in items like cereal, plywood, wood paste, and baby food.
Barria did note that there were some obstacles, namely a language barrier and transport, which would hinder the process of further trade with Chile. He said the cost of transport of goods to Chile is high and has risen recently, but neither of these challenges would be a hindrance, as long as the relationship between the two countries continues to flourish.
“We need to have an open sky, so we could have better communication between TT and Chile,” he said.
Chile is ready and willing to further their business and cultural relationship with TT, according to Barria. He said Chilean experts in several fields have already come to TT in order to share their expertise, including search and rescue and medical practices.
Barria said Chile is ready and willing to expand beyond its flourishing gas and energy relationship with TT.
"We need to think beyond gas. Trade between Chile and TT in other fields and sectors is important. It is the same with technical trade and co-operative work. TT also has a lot of innovative entrepreneurs who provide a wide range of goods and services needed by Chile," he said.