Trinidad and Tobago
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PM: Trinidad and Tobago suffering from US policy on Venezuela

Paula Lindo Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley - File photo
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley - File photo

The Prime Minister has said during recent talks with the US, he informed them that TT was suffering from collateral damage from US sanctions against Venezuela. He is encouraging businesspeople to see eastern Venezuela as a market for their goods and service as part of the Dragon gas deal.

Speaking to businesspeople, government ministers and public servants during a Breakfast with the PM event at the Hilton Hotel and Conference Centre on Wednesday, Dr Rowley made the statements as part of his remarks on TT’s hydrocarbon deals.

“Our raw materials are not as available as they used to be, and it is the responsibility of government to focus on the discovery of new gas, which is why I opened negotiations with Venezuela, which has huge volumes of surplus gas which we can acquire through commercial arrangements to keep ourselves in a place which we know well."

If not for for American sanctions on the Venezuelan business, we would have acquired the gas from Venezuela in 2018.

"We have managed to get Venezuela to agree for the first time to export its gas, and to its neighbour TT. That has been in the pipeline and is still being impeded, as a matter of fact, when I was in Washington two weeks ago, I met with some advisers to the President and I did tell them that TT is suffering from collateral damage from US foreign policy on Venezuela. As a result of that policy, we have been deprived of commercial access to significantly available commercial gas.”

He said the first level of access was crossed when TT was granted an Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) licence, which he noted had a condition attached. He said government is working on getting to the point where the operation can become actionable.

Rowley encouraged business people to see eastern Venezuela as a market for their goods and services. He was responding to a question from the TT Manufacturers Association Dale Parsons.

“We are still talking to the US about the term of the OPAC licence which says we can’t pay with cash and we’re hoping some adjustments can be made. The product we’re getting from Venezuela is eminently saleable and if we have to service some of it in kind, TT is well poised to be able to pay for it. The point is once we handle Venezuelan gas, we can pay for it, and TT’s manufacturers should be very excited about the prospect of doing more large-scale business with Venezuela, and that may well be where TT’s future lies.”

Rowley said in many countries around the world, such as Japan, neighbouring raw materials are the lifeblood of their economy.

In the case of Venezuela, he explained, its hydrocarbons and business are in western Venezuela.

"We are the automatic outlet commercially for the raw materials of eastern Venezuela, because we have the infrastructure in TT to handle it and they aren’t likely to have it in the near future.

“When President Maduro came here in 2017/2018, he put in place a $50 million account to purchase goods, food, toiletries, etc, for eastern Venezuela, and we didn’t use that. And there were other orders in the pipeline we weren’t able to provide. But we do have a wide range of manufactured goods which we can get into eastern Venezuela, which is not now being had there.

"It is for our people in TT to get up and regard eastern Venezuela as a market for TT’s manufactured goods, because we have that kind of relationship with Venezuela, and raw materials from there could find itself in TT, but somebody has to do it.”

Parsons said manufacturers often faced difficulty in getting payment from Venezuela. Rowley said the solution could be to put in place payment and escrow arrangements, either bilaterally or internationally, as is done worldwide.