by Clint Chan Tack
(NEWSDAY) -Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela yesterday reached agreement on a US$50 million revolving fund, that will be used by Venezuela to purchase critical manufactured goods from T&T, for its citizens.
The announcement was made by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and T&T Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, following bilateral discussions at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.
The trade agreement was reached against the backdrop of Venezuelan citizens protesting outside of the Diplomatic Centre about the inability of their countrymen being unable to access many basic goods (including food and medicine) within their nation, which continues to be gripped by social and political unrest. Recalling that his country’s liberators found refuge in TT and the mutual respect which both nations share for each other, Maduro announced key agreements on energy and security which he and Rowley had reached at the end of their discussions. “We have also decided to increase the trade flow between the two nations,” Maduro said, adding this involves establishment of a revolving US$50 million fund by his government.
He explained that through this fund, “We will be able to strengthen the trade flow between TT and the eastern part of Venezuela.” In noting that Maduro was the first foreign Head of State to be hosted by his administration, since it assumed office last September, Rowley said TT was “pleased that financing has been put in place to enable cross border trade of manufactured items.” Observing that the people of TT and Venezuela share common challenges, Rowley said, “We look forward from TT to provide some significant relief to the people of Venezuela.” Expressing satisfaction with the agreements on trade, security and energy which both countries agreed upon at the end of yesterday’s bilateral discussions, Rowley said the groundwork began in conversations between both governments since last September.
Describing Maduro’s visit as very productive and very useful, the T&T Prime Minister declared, “As we move on to the execution phase, the outcomes of these decisions will have far reaching positive consequences for the people of Venezuela and the people of TT.” Speaking afterwards with reporters about the trade agreement, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon identified chicken, butter, ketchup, rice and black beans as some items which could be going to Venezuela under this agreement.
Indicating that her ministry had already provided the Venezuelan government with a list of manufactured goods in TT, Gopee-Scoon said details will be fleshed out when the Venezuelan vice trade minister and a delegation of Venezuelan private sector representatives, visit this country next week.
She also gave the assurance that there would be, “easy and swift payment to manufacturers within a reasonable time frame as well.” Asked which local manufacturers would be providing goods to Venezuela under this agreement, Gopee-Scoon said her ministry would inform the media accordingly as the details are fleshed out in the coming weeks.
Gopee-Scoon, who served as foreign affairs minister in the former Patrick Manning administration, said that Government recognised the current state of affairs in Venezuela.
However she said the agreements reached between both nations yesterday was part and parcel of the continued strong diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Gopee-Scoon was one of several ministers who were part of Rowley’s delegation at yesterday’s bilateral talks. Attorney General Faris Al Rawi, Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dennis Moses, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister in the Ministry of the AG and Legal Affairs Stuart Young, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon and Energy Minister Nicole Olivierre were the other members of the Government’s delegation.
Maduro’s delegation included Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez, Petroleum and Mining Minister Eulogio del Pino, Industry and Commerce Minister Miguel Pérez Abad, Vice Minister for Latin American and Caribbean Affairs Alexander Yánez Deleuze and Venezuelan Ambassador to TT Coromoto Godoy Calderon.