PORT OF SPAIN –– Oil-rich Venezuela, which is faced with a severe food crisis, will soon bring relief to its citizens by purchasing US$50 million in goods from Trinidad and Tobago.
Confirmation came Monday from Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.
In addressing the media, some of whom were from Venezuela, Maduro described his meeting with Rowley and his Cabinet as fruitful and successful, promising to strengthen ties and the relationship with Trinidad and Tobago going forward.
“We need to continue working hard in the future to further our relations in the premise of principles of respect, brotherhood and co-operation,” Maduro told a smiling Rowley.
Among the issues both men discussed were trade, security and repatriation of citizens who are currently detained in prisons on both sides.
The Trinidad and Tobago Government also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Maduro to purchase gas from Venezuela, which Maduro said stood to benefit both countries.
“We look forward from Trinidad and Tobago to provide significant relief to the people of Venezuela. This relief to come from a supply of manufactured goods from Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley told Maduro, as he shook his head in approval.
“We have created a joint venture that would be responsible to conduct all the investments required in order to tap those resources for that benefit of both countries.
“We have also decided to increase the trade flow between the two nations. We have already established the contacts and very soon, through a revolving fund with US$50 million, we will be able to strengthen the flow of trade between Trinidad and the Eastern part of Venezuela,” Maduro said, in delivering his speech to Rowley and his Cabinet.
Following Maduro’s address, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon spoke about the arrangements that would be put in place for Venezuela to obtain much needed food.
She said the US$50 million fund Venezuela had established would be used to purchase manufactured goods from Trinidad and Tobago, which would be sent to the eastern states of Venezuela, which have been faced with a shortage of food for months now.
To get the ball rolling, Gopee-Scoon said her ministry had forwarded a list of all goods manufactured in Trinidad and Tobago to Venezuela.
“It is from that list, I believe from next week, we would have the vice-minister from the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Venezuela visiting with us, along with some private sector persons. They are going to be looking at which items they would want to be sent to Venezuela,” she added.
Gopee-Scoon said the timeline for the trade to start would begin as soon as the goods were made available.
Among the priority items Venezuela had requested, Gopee-Scoon said, were butter, chicken, pork, ketchup, rice and black beans.
“These are things that would have to be fleshed out. I believe they are going to choose eight priority items which they would want us to send to them. We are going to have all this worked out when we have a delegation from Venezuela and put up all the mechanisms in place so that we can facilitate easy passage of goods from here to there,” she added.
Although they have asked for pork, Gopee-Scoon said that was one item Trinidad and Tobago imports which they would have to look at.
Initially, Gopee Scoon said the Government had looked at Venezuela exchanging petroleum for goods from Trinidad and Tobago but that plan did not work out.
“However, this is a different arrangement. We are speaking now of the Venezuelan Government paying for goods from Trinidad and Tobago. So a fund has been set up and the President of Venezuela did in fact speak about it.
“That is how we are going to kick off the trade. I believe it will be on a revolving basis. So this fund will be fed into and replenished and so on,” Gopee-Scoon said.
Asked if the Government intended to offer Maduro goods at a subsidised price, given the country’s ongoing food crisis, Gopee-Scoon said: “We have not looked at price at all. There was no request at all but there will be some talks in going forward from Tuesday’s discussions.”
She said the goods would be available at cost price by the suppliers and promised that payments to suppliers would be easy and swift.