China is one of the largest international contingents to exhibit at the 2012 Trade and Investment Convention (TIC) to be held from May 12-16 at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad hotel, Port-of-Spain. In an interview last Thursday with Natasha Mustapha-Scott, chief executive officer of T&T Manufacturers Association (TTMA), at its Barataria headquarters, said China increased its presence from 16 booths at TIC 2011 to 26 booths this year. “Last year they reserved the Jade and Ruby rooms, but this year they are occupying half of the Port-of-Spain ballroom. All 26 rooms are already paid for at a total cost of US$85,800,” Mustapha-Scott said. She recalled the first time the Chinese attended TIC in 2000 with ten companies. “They stopped and started again in 2009 with a showing of eight companies,” she said. “China has been consistent since and their presence is definitely growing.” Mustapha-Scott explained that each of the 26 booths could facilitate two companies and estimated that 40 Chinese companies are likely to be at TIC this year. The Chinese delegation’s diverse offering is to include small plant-type equipment, products for factories, and other buildings.
Chinese construction in T&T
Since 2007, the Chinese have established a strong presence in T&T’s major projects. Five years ago, there were at least 500 Chinese labourers in T&T. Shanghai Construction was awarded contracts to build:
• Port-of-Spain and San Fernando National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA/SAPA)
• The Diplomatic Centre and the Official Residence of the Prime Minister, St Ann’s
• Ministry of Education Tower, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain
• Ministry of Foreign Affairs
China Jiang Su International Corporation is to build the main campus of the University of the West Indies in Debe, Penal.
In September 2011, at the Third China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Co-operation Forum held at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad hotel, Port-of-Spain, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan announced that China would set up a US$1 billion commercial loan for infrastructure projects in the Caribbean. This is just the start of China gaining a foothold in the region, Qishan said.
Mustapha-Scott stated that the response from local organisations and international countries has been phenomenal.
For the first time, Ministry of Trade and Industry has sponsored a booth for the Cuba Chamber. “Even though it is difficult to do business with Cuba, they were adamant about doing business with T&T, so they requested the Trade Ministry partners with them for TIC. “But many of the other country representatives are repeat businesses. This is an indication they are making deals and forming successful partnerships. Right now we have about 24 international and local companies on a waiting list.” Just like 2011,TIC sold out about six weeks in advance, bearing in mind it was marketed and promoted a little later compared to last year, Mustapha explained. Last year, TTMA hosted 175 booths. The figure has jumped to 183. Like China, Brazil has a large contingent. Twenty to 40 companies—mainly distributors—usually represent Brazil.
Sun Mark Ltd, a United Kingdom food distribution company which first came in 2010, has been reaping great rewards from TIC. The UK company boasted of selling £1 million of foods and products in 2011. This year, Mustapha-Scott said Sun Mark chairman Dr Rami Ranger reported that his company may not participate this year as his Caribbean market is covered. In a June 2011 Business Guardian article, Ranger was quoted as saying “We were well received and our business has grown from strength to strength. We are now in St Vincent, Barbados, T&T, Dominica, St Maarten, so our business is growing in the Caribbean.” Based on the remarkable response, we redesigned the structure and the floor plan to accommodate more booths, she said.