Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Executive Summary

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).  According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) statistics, St. Vincent and the Grenadine’s 2020 estimated gross domestic product (GDP) was 783 million USD (2.12 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) in 2020.  This represents an estimated 7 percent reduction from 2019, following several consecutive years of minimal growth.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines, like other Eastern Caribbean countries, is highly dependent on tourism, which accounted for 28.6 percent of GDP and 19.9 percent of formal sector employment in 2019.  The anticipated recovery from the pandemic-induced downturn is expected to fall significantly short of expectations, contributing to a challenging economic outlook for 2021.  Short-term forecasts project a sluggish recovery throughout 2021 and a return to pre-pandemic levels of growth and tourism by 2024.  The economy might struggle to hit its forecasted growth of around 3.7 percent in 2021, and in fact may continue to contract as the tourism sector is impacted by the ongoing pandemic.

Unanticipated spending on health care, extended welfare and unemployment benefits, and economic stimulus initiatives, coupled with a sharp drop in government revenues in 2020, forced the government to borrow to finance a widening fiscal deficit.  This new borrowing is primarily from international financial institutions on concessional terms.

The country seeks to diversify its economy across several niche markets, particularly tourism, international financial services, agroprocessing, light manufacturing, renewable energy, creative industries, and information and communication technologies.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines ranked 130th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report.

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines strongly encourages foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly in industries that create jobs and earn foreign exchange.  Through the Invest St. Vincent and the Grenadines Authority (Invest SVG), the government facilitates FDI and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors.

The government does not impose limits on foreign control, nor are there requirements for local ownership or ownership in locally registered companies.  The island’s legal system is based on the British common law system.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.  It has double-taxation treaties with the United States, Canada, the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

In 2016, St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the United States’ Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 40 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 130 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 7 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 7,460 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, through Invest SVG, strongly encourages FDI, particularly in industries that create jobs and earn foreign currency.  The government is open to all investment, but is currently prioritizing investment in niche markets, particularly tourism, international financial services, agroprocessing, light manufacturing, creative industries, and information and communication technologies.

Invest SVG’s FDI policy is designed to attract investment into priority sectors.  It advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs that attract and facilitate investment.  The government offers special incentive packages for foreign investments in the hotel industry and light manufacturing.  The government offers other incentive packages on an ad hoc basis.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign control in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, nor are there requirements for local investment or ownership in locally registered companies, although non-nationals must apply for a license from the Prime Minister’s Office to acquire more than 50 percent of a company.  An attorney must submit the application and Cabinet must approve it.  Companies holding at least five acres of land may restrict or prohibit the issue or transfer of their shares or debentures to non-nationals.

The government has not officially closed any industries to private investment, although some activities such as telecommunications, utilities, broadcasting, banking, and insurance require a government license.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the OECS. The OECS has not conducted a trade policy review in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

Invest SVG facilitates domestic and foreign direct investment in priority sectors and advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract investment.  Invest SVG provides business support services and market intelligence to all investors.  It also reviews all investment projects applying for government incentives to ensure they conform to national interests and provide economic benefits to the country.  Its website is http://www.investsvg.com.  In addition to its website, the country offers an online guide that is useful for navigating the laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors.  The guide is available at http://theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/saintvincentandthegrenadines.

According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, St. Vincent and the Grenadines ranked 93rd of 190 countries in the ease of starting a business, which takes seven procedures and ten days to complete.  The general practice is to retain an attorney to prepare all incorporation documents.  A business must register with the Commerce and Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), the Ministry of Trade, the Inland Revenue Department, and the National Insurance Service.  The CIPO has an online information portal that describes the steps to register a business in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  There is no online registration process, but the required forms are available online.  These must be printed and submitted to the CIPO.  More information is available at http://www.cipo.gov.vc.

Outward Investment

There is no restriction on domestic investors seeking to do business abroad.  Local companies are actively encouraged to take advantage of export opportunities specifically related to the country’s membership in the OECS Economic Union and the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), which enhances the competitiveness of the local and regional private sectors across traditional and emerging high-potential markets.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has not signed a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.  The country, however, has bilateral tax treaties with the United States, Canada, the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.   In1989, Germany and St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed a treaty for the Encouragement and Reciprocal Protection of Investment.  In 2018, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the UAE concluded an Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation on Income and an Agreement for the Promotion and Protection of Investments.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is also party to the following economic communities and organizations:

Caribbean Community

The Treaty of Chaguaramas established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 1973.  Its purpose is to promote economic integration among its 15 member states.  Investors operating in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have preferential access to the entire CARICOM market.  The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) established the CSME, which permits the free movement of goods, capital, and labor among CARICOM states.  CARICOM has bilateral agreements with Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.  In 2013, CARICOM entered into a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States.

Organization of Eastern Caribbean States

The Revised Treaty of Basseterre established the OECS.  The OECS consists of seven full member states (Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines), and four associate members (Anguilla, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and the British Virgin Islands).  The OECS promotes harmonization among member states in foreign policy, defense and security, and economic affairs.  The six independent countries and Montserrat (a British Overseas Territory) ratified the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union, which entered into force in 2011.  The Economic Union established a single financial and economic space within which all factors of production, including goods, services, and people, move without hindrance.

CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement

The Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) and the European Community signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2008.  The overarching objectives of the EPA are to alleviate poverty, promote regional integration and economic cooperation, and foster the gradual integration of the CARIFORUM states into the world economy by improving trade capacity and creating an investment-conducive environment.  The EPA promotes trade-related developments in areas such as competition, intellectual property, public procurement, the environment, and the protection of personal data.

Caribbean Basin Initiative

The Caribbean Basin Initiative facilitates the economic development and export diversification of the Caribbean Basin economies.  It promotes economic development through private sector initiatives in Central America and the Caribbean by expanding foreign and domestic investment in non-traditional sectors, diversifying country economies, and expanding their imports.  The Caribbean Basin Initiative provides beneficiary countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for most goods.  It permits duty-free entry of products manufactured or assembled in St. Vincent and the Grenadines into the United States.

Caribbean/Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN)

CARIBCAN is an economic and trade development assistance program for Commonwealth Caribbean countries in which Canada provides duty-free access to its national market for most products originating in Commonwealth Caribbean countries.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

St. Vincent and the Grenadines uses transparent policies and laws to foster competition and establish clear rules for foreign and domestic investors in the areas of tax, labor, environment, health, and safety.  Accounting, legal, and regulatory practices are generally transparent and consistent with international norms.  The International Financial Accounting Standards, which stem from the General Accepted Accounting Principles, govern the profession in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Rulemaking and regulatory authority rests in the unicameral House of Assembly, which has fifteen elected members and six appointed senators who sit for a five-year term.  The Public Accounts Committee and Director of Audits ensure the government follows administrative processes.

National laws govern all regulations relating to foreign investment.  Ministries develop these laws, and the Ministry of Legal Affairs drafts them.  Laws pertaining to Invest SVG also govern FDI.  Invest SVG has the main responsibility for investment supervision, while the Ministry of Economic Planning, Sustainable Development, Industry, Information and Labor tracks investments to collect information for national statistics and reporting purposes.

The government publishes most draft bills in local newspapers for public comment.  In addition, the government circulates bills at stakeholder meetings.  Some bills and laws are published on the government website at www.gov.vc.  The government sometimes establishes a select committee to suggest amendments to specific draft bills.  In some instances, these mechanisms may also apply to investment laws and regulations.  There is no obligation for the government to consider proposed amendments prior to implementation.  The government discloses information on public finances and debt obligations.  The annual budget address can be found online.

The country’s membership in regional organizations, particularly the OECS and its Economic Union, commits the state to implement all appropriate measures to fulfill its various treaty obligations.  For example, the Banking Act, which establishes a single banking space and the harmonization of banking regulations in the Economic Union, is uniformly in force in the eight member territories of the ECCU, although there are some minor differences in implementation from country to country.  The most recent Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Mutual Evaluation assessment found St. Vincent and the Grenadines to be largely compliant.  The ECCB is the supervisory authority over financial institutions registered under the Banking Act of 2015.

An external company must be registered with the Commercial Registry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines if it wishes to operate in the country.  Companies using or manufacturing chemicals must first obtain approval of their environmental and health practices from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Standards Institution and the Environmental Division of the Ministry of Health.

International Regulatory Considerations

As a member of the OECS and the ECCU, St. Vincent and the Grenadines subscribes to a set of principles and policies outlined in the Revised Treaty of Basseterre.  The relationship between national and regional systems is such that each participating member state is expected to coordinate and adopt, where possible, common national policies aimed at the progressive harmonization of relevant policies and systems across the region.  Thus, the country must implement regionally developed regulations, such as legislation passed under the OECS Authority, unless it seeks specific concessions not to do so.

The country’s Bureau of Standards is a statutory body which prepares and promulgates standards in relation to goods, services, processes, and practices.  As a signatory to the WTO Agreement on the Technical Barriers to Trade, St. Vincent and the Grenadines must harmonize all national standards to international norms to avoid creating technical barriers to trade.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2017 and subsequently notified its Category A measures.  Included in the Trade Facilitation Agreement are measures to improve risk management techniques and a post-clearance audit system to eliminate delays and congestion at the port.  While St. Vincent and the Grenadines has implemented some TFA requirements, it has missed two implementation deadlines.  A full list of measures undertaken pursuant to the TFA is available at https://tfadatabase.org/members/saint-vincent-and-the-grenadines.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The country’s legal system is based on the British common law system.  The constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary.  The judicial system consists of lower courts, called magistrates’ courts, and a family court.  The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Act establishes the Supreme Court of Judicature, which consists of the High Court and the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal.  The High Court hears criminal and civil (commercial) matters and makes determinations on constitutional matters.  Parties may appeal first to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, an itinerant court that hears appeals from all OECS members.  The final court of appeal is the Judicial Committee of the UK Privy Council.

The country has a strong judicial system that upholds the sanctity of contracts and prevents unwarranted discrimination towards foreign investors.  The government treats foreign investors and local investors equally with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory.  The police and court systems are generally unbiased in commercial matters.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is the regional judicial tribunal.  The CCJ has original jurisdiction to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is only subject to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ.

The United States and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are both parties to the WTO.  The WTO Dispute Settlement Panel and Appellate Body resolve disputes over WTO agreements, while courts of appropriate jurisdiction in both countries resolve private disputes.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Invest SVG provides guidance on the relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors.  Invest SVG has the authority to screen and review FDI projects.  The review process is transparent and contingent on the size of capital investment and the project’s projected economic impact.  The investor must complete a series of steps to obtain a business license.  These steps are listed at http://www.investsvg.com.  All potential investors seeking an incentive package must submit their proposals for review by Invest SVG to ensure the project is consistent with the nation’s laws and interests and would provide economic benefits to the country.

Local enterprises generally welcome joint ventures with foreign investors to access technology, expertise, markets, and capital.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Chapter 8 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas outlines the competition policy applicable to CARICOM states.  Member states are required to establish and maintain a national competition authority for implementing the rules of competition.  CARICOM established a Caribbean Competition Commission to apply rules of competition regarding anti-competitive cross-border business conduct.  CARICOM competition policy addresses anti-competitive business conduct such as agreements between enterprises, decisions by associations of enterprises, and concerted practices by enterprises that have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction, or distortion of competition within the Community, and actions by which an enterprise abuses its dominant position within the Community.  There is no legislation to regulate competition in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Expropriation and Compensation

Under the Land Acquisition Act, the government may acquire land for a public purpose.  The government must serve a notice of acquisition on the person from whom the land is acquired.  A Board of Assessment determines compensation and files its award in the High Court.  The value of the land is based on the amount for which the land would be sold on the open market by a willing seller.  Under the Alien’s (Land-Holding Regulation) Act, the government can hold properties forfeit without compensation if the terms of investment are not met.  The U.S. Embassy is not aware of any outstanding expropriation claims or nationalization of foreign enterprises in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States and the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, also known as the New York Arbitration Convention.

According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, dispute resolution generally took 595 days, though this may vary.  The slow court system and bureaucracy are widely seen as the main hindrances to timely resolution of commercial disputes.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines ranked 61st of 190 countries in enforcing contracts in the report.  Through the Arbitration Act, the local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investors are permitted to use national or international arbitration regarding contracts entered into with the state.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have a bilateral investment treaty or a free trade agreement with an investment chapter with the United States.  The U.S. Embassy is not aware of any current investment disputes in the country.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is the domestic arbitration body, and the local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards.  The Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Act provides that either party to an existing trade dispute can report it to the Governor General.  The Governor General may, if both parties consent, refer the dispute to an arbitration panel for settlement.  The arbitration panel must issue an award that is consistent with national employment laws.  Parties can be represented by legal counsel before the arbitration panel.  These bodies may conduct proceedings in public or private.  The Trade Disputes Act provides that alternative dispute mechanisms are available as a means for settling disputes between two private parties.  The government recognizes voluntary mediation or conciliation as dispute resolution mechanisms.   The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s Court of Appeals also provides mediation.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act governs the country’s bankruptcy framework and grants certain rights to debtors and creditors.  The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report ranks St. Vincent and the Grenadines 168th of 190 countries in resolving insolvency.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Through the Fiscal Incentives Act, St. Vincent and the Grenadines offers many incentives for investors and provides the necessary information on the laws, criteria, and application procedures to qualify for these incentives.

The list of incentives includes exemption from or reduction of duty payments on the importation or purchase of materials and other equipment for use in construction and operation of the business.  Other incentives are the exemption from or a reduction of duty on the importation or purchase of vehicles for use in operation of the business, and a reduction of property tax of up to ten percent for land and buildings used in the operation of the business.

The government also provides tax holidays as an investment incentive.  Group I enterprises (50 percent or more local value added) enjoy a 15-year tax holiday; Group II enterprises (25 to 49 percent local value added) are granted 12 years; Group III enterprises (10 to 24 percent local value added) receive ten years.  Enclave enterprises (producing wholly for markets outside of CARICOM) enjoy a 15-year tax holiday.  The Industry Unit under the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning, Sustainable Development and Information Technology administers this Act.  These fiscal incentives may be granted to manufacturing and processing companies producing “Approved Products.”  Companies must apply to Cabinet to become “Approved Enterprises” producing such products.  Local value is determined by the percentage of annual sales not contributed by imported materials and services, non-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) national labor, profits and other income payments distributed to members outside of CARICOM, and depreciation on imported machinery and equipment.  Tax holidays are also granted to capital-intensive industries investing at least 9.25 million USD (25 million Eastern Caribbean dollars).

Companies must meet export performance requirements to take advantage of certain tax incentives.  For example, enclave enterprises must produce goods exclusively for export outside the CARICOM region.  Foreign investors may finance investments using domestic or foreign capital sources.  The Fiscal Incentives Act confers income tax credits in the form of export allowance to qualifying enterprises for the export of approved products.

In the tourism sector, the Hotels Aid Act provides incentives for the renovation, refurbishment, and expansion of existing hotels and for the construction of new hotels.  Concessions for expansions of not less than five guest rooms are also available.  The Ministry of Tourism administers the Act.

The corporate tax rate ranges from 15 to 30 percent, except for companies granted tax holidays under the Fiscal Incentives Act.  Companies manufacturing goods for local or export markets and which have maintained a special account conforming to Comptroller of Inland Revenue requirements have access to reduced tax rates.  Offshore businesses are also subject to value added tax (VAT) on taxable goods imported into St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  VAT is 16 percent.  An international company may import machinery and equipment free from certain taxes and custom duties if the imports are capital goods to be used in a company’s business.

The government recognizes trusts if they are in writing and follow the formal requirements for a deed or settlement under the International Trust Act.  The Act recognizes several types of international trusts: protective or spendthrift trusts, charitable trusts, and purpose trusts.  A Registrar of Trusts has direct regulatory responsibilities relating to registration, certificate issuance, and review of trust documentation.  At least one trustee must be registered and licensed for an international trust to be registered.  The government confers certain benefits on registered trusts, including exemptions from various taxes and duties provided the settler was not insolvent at the time the trust was created or did not become insolvent because of the creation of the trust.  The exemptions include income tax, excise tax, customs duties, and stamp duty exemptions.  These are applicable if certain conditions are met, one of which being that the trust must not be domiciled in the country.  The Comptroller of Inland Revenue is empowered to assess a trust’s eligibility for tax exemptions and may require the registered trustee to provide financial information.

If at least one beneficiary of a registered trust becomes a resident after the trust is registered, and if the trust is in good standing, the fact of the residency of the beneficiary will not invalidate the trust.  Neither the trust nor its beneficiaries will be entitled to tax exemptions for any year during which trust had one or more resident beneficiaries.  An international trust, except one that is an international company, will not become void or voidable due to a settler’s bankruptcy, insolvency, or liquidation, the law of the settler’s domicile or ordinary residence notwithstanding.

While there is no formal legislation in relation to incentives in the information and telecommunications sector, commercial presence and establishment is at the discretion of the Cabinet on advice from the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Export Free Zones Act of 1999 provides for the designation or establishment of export free zones, which allow for the duty-free import of inputs for processing and export.  While allowable under law, there are no foreign trade zones or free trade zones in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government does not mandate local employment.  The Employment of Foreign Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens Act provides foreign nationals or Commonwealth citizens must obtain valid work permits.  The ministry responsible for national security oversees work permit applications.  The government may modify or cancel work permits after a seven-day notice if the holder fails to comply with the conditions of the permit.

There is no requirement that enterprises purchase a fixed percentage of goods from local sources.  There are no requirements for foreign information technology providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance (backdoors into hardware and software keys for encryption, etc.).  The country has not adopted any specific data protection legislation.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Aliens’ Land Holding Act regulates the holding of land and mortgages related to land by individuals who are non-nationals and companies controlled by non-nationals.  Non-nationals must apply for and be granted a license to hold land.  The breach of any condition of the license authorizes forfeiture to the government of the interest held by the non-national.  License conditions may require that land be developed within a specific timeframe.  Non-nationals apply for a license to hold the land to the office of the Prime Minister through an attorney licensed to practice in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  If approved, the non-national must file the license at the Registry of the High Court.  The Registry collects all applicable registration fees and stamp duties.  The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report ranks St. Vincent and the Grenadines 168th out of 190 countries in ease of registering property.  It takes about 47 days to complete the seven necessary procedures, at a cost of about 11.8 percent of the property value.

Intellectual Property Rights

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a legislative framework protecting intellectual property rights (IPR).  While legal structures governing IPR are adequate, enforcement measures are inconsistent.  The administration of IPR laws is the responsibility of the Office of the Attorney General.  The CIPO administers the registration of patents, trademarks, and service marks.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.  It is also a member of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization and is a signatory to its treaties.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2021 Special 301 Report or in its  2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

Article 66 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the CSME commits all 15 members to implement stronger intellectual property protection and enforcement.  The EPA between the CARIFORUM states and the European Community contains the most detailed obligations in respect to intellectual property in any trade agreement to which St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a party.  The EPA recognizes the protection and enforcement of intellectual property.  Article 139 of the EPA requires parties to “ensure an adequate and effective implementation of the international treaties dealing with intellectual property to which they are parties, and of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).”

The Enforcement Division of the Customs and Excise Department spearheads the preventative and enforcement aspects of IPR protection, which includes the detention, seizure, and forfeiture of counterfeit goods.  The Enforcement Division also conducts investigations of customs offenses and administers fines and penalties.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the ECCU.  As such, it is also a participant on the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange (ECSE) and the Regional Government Securities Market.  The ECSE is a regional securities market established by the ECCB and regulated by the Eastern Caribbean Securities Regulatory Commission.  The Securities Act of 2001 regulates activities on the ECSM.

The ECSE and its subsidiaries, the Eastern Caribbean Central Securities Depository and the Eastern Caribbean Central Securities Registry, facilitate activities on the ECSE.  The main activities are the primary issuance and secondary trading of corporate and sovereign securities, the clearance and settlement of issues and trades, maintaining securities holders’ records, and providing custodial, registration, transfer agency, and paying agency services in respect of listed and non-listed securities.  As of March 31, 2020, there were 154 securities listed on the ECSE, comprising 134 sovereign debt instruments, 13 equities, and seven corporate bonds.  Market capitalization stood at 666 million USD (1.8 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars), representing a 0.3 percent decrease from the previous year.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is open to portfolio investment.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines accepted the obligations of Article VIII of the International Monetary Fund Agreement, sections 2, 3, and 4, and maintains an exchange system free of restrictions on making international payments and transfers.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have a credit bureau.

Money and Banking System

Eight participating governments passed the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Agreement Act.  The Act provides for the establishment of the ECCB, its management and administration, its currency, relations with financial institutions, relations with the participating governments, foreign exchange operations, external reserves, and other related matters.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a signatory to this agreement.  Therefore, the ECCB controls the country’s currency and regulates its domestic banks.

The Banking Act 2015 is a harmonized piece of legislation across all ECCU member states.  The ECCB and the Ministers of Finance of member states jointly carry out banking supervision under the Act.  The Ministers of Finance usually act in consultation with the ECCB with respect to those areas of responsibility within the Minister of Finance’s portfolio.

Domestic and foreign banks can establish operations in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  The Banking Act requires all commercial banks and other institutions to be licensed.  The ECCB regulates financial institutions.  As part of supervision, licensed financial institutions are required to submit monthly, quarterly, and annual performance reports to the ECCB.  In its latest annual report, the ECCB listed the commercial banking sector in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as stable.  Assets of commercial banks totaled $833 million (2.25 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) at the end of December 2019 and remained relatively consistent during the previous year.  The reserve requirement for commercial banks was six percent of deposit liabilities.

The Caribbean region has witnessed a withdrawal of correspondent banking services by U.S., Canadian, and European banks due to risk management concerns.  CARICOM remains committed to engaging with key stakeholders on the issue and appointed a Committee of Ministers of Finance on Correspondent Banking to continue to monitor the issue.

Bitt, a Barbadian company, developed digital currency DCash in partnership with ECCB.  The first successful DCash retail central bank digital currency (CDBC) consumer-to-merchant transaction took place in Grenada in February following a multi-year development process.  The CBB and the FSC established a regulatory sandbox in 2018 where financial technology entities can do live testing of their products and services.  This allowed regulators to gain a better understanding of the product or service and to determine what, if any, regulation is necessary to protect consumers.  Bitt completed its participation and formally exited the sandbox in 2019.  Bitt is expected to launch DCash in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in mid-2021.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have any specific legislation to regulate cryptocurrencies.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the ECCU and the ECCB.  The currency of exchange is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD).  As a member of the OECS, its foreign exchange system is fully liberalized.  The XCD has been pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of XCD 2.70 to USD 1.00 since 1976.  As a result, the Eastern Caribbean dollar does not fluctuate, creating a stable currency environment for trade and investment.

Remittance Policies

Companies registered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have the right to repatriate all capital, royalties, dividends, and profits free of all taxes or any other charges on foreign exchange transactions.  International companies are exempt from taxation.  Under present regulations, there are no personal income taxes, estate taxes, corporate income taxes, or withholding taxes for international companies operating in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  International companies are also exempt from competitive tax for 25 years.

Only banks may make currency conversions.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the CFATF.

In 2014, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed an intergovernmental agreement with the United States to facilitate compliance for FATCA, which makes it mandatory for St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ banks to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Neither the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, nor the ECCB, maintains a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are currently 28 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in the following sectors: water, transportation, housing, transportation (ports), electricity, tourism, information and communication, telecommunications, investment and investment services, financial services, fisheries, agriculture, sports and culture, civil engineering, and infrastructure.

SOEs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are wholly owned government entities.  They are headed by boards of directors to which senior managers report.  They are governed by their respective legislation and do not generally pose a threat to investors, as they are not designed for competition.  There is no single published list of SOEs, though information about individual SOEs is available.

Privatization Program

There are no targeted privatization programs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The government and the public view responsible business conduct positively.  The private sector is involved in projects that benefit society, including in support of environmental, social, and cultural causes.  Individuals benefit from business-sponsored initiatives when employees of local and foreign-owned enterprises volunteer and when companies make monetary or in-kind donations to local causes.

The NGO community, while comparatively small, is involved in fundraising and volunteerism in gender, health, environmental, and community projects.  The government sometimes partners with NGOs and generally encourages philanthropy.

There are no alleged or reported human or labor rights concerns relating to responsible business conduct of which foreign businesses should be aware.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies or a participant in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implements these laws.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a signatory to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, but not to the UN Anti-Corruption Convention.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has the authority to prosecute a number of corruption-related offenses.  Corruption allegations are investigated by the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.  There is generally no statutory standard obligation for public officers to disclose financial information to a specific authority.  If there are confiscation proceedings initiated or contemplated against a corrupt official, the courts can order disclosure of financial information.  The Financial Intelligence Unit has the authority to conduct financial investigations with a court order.

The law also provides for public access to information.  Only a narrow list of exceptions outlining the grounds for nondisclosure exists, but there is no specific timeline for relevant authorities to make the requested response or disclosure.  There are no criminal or administrative sanctions for not providing a response and there is no appeal mechanism for review of a disclosure denial.

Resources to Report Corruption

Sejilla McDowall
Director of Public Prosecutions
Office of Public Prosecutions
Frenches Gate, Kingstown
Telephone: 784-457-1344
Email: dppsvg@vincysurf.com

Colin John
Commissioner of Police
Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force
Kingstown
Telephone: 784-457-1211
Email: svgpolice@gmail.com

10. Political and Security Environment

St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have a recent history of politically-motivated violence or civil disturbance.  Elections are peaceful and regarded as being free and fair.  The next general elections are constitutionally due in 2025.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ active 2020 labor force was approximately 55,567 persons.  The government generally enforces labor laws, and penalties are sufficient to deter violations.  The law, including related regulations and statutory instruments, provides for the rights of workers to form and join unions of their choice, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes.  The law also provides that it is lawful to conduct peaceful picketing in contemplation of a trade dispute.  Trade unions and leaders of the trade union movement enjoy a strong voice in the labor and economic affairs of the country.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and dismissal for engagement in union activities.  Although the law does not require reinstatement of workers fired for union activity, a court may order reinstatement.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has noted with concern the discretionary authority of the government over trade union registration, and the government’s unfettered authority to investigate the financial accounts of trade unions.

The Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Act Chapter 215 provides for establishment of an arbitration tribunal and a board of inquiry in connection with trade disputes and allows provision for the settlement of such disputes.  Labor unions and businesses are generally satisfied with the arbitration panels, which have tripartite representation.  One of the mandates of the Department of Labor is to serve as a dispute resolution mechanism.

The Wages Council Act establishes the Wages Council, which addresses minimum wages, hours of work, overtime, vacation, sick leave, and maternity leave for specified categories of workers.  Employers who fail to pay minimum wages are subject to orders for the payment of the wages.  The statutory minimum wages are set out in the regulations under the Wages Council Act.  The hours of work for specified categories of workers are usually eight hours per day with overtime generally calculated at a rate of time and a half and double time for work done on Sundays and public holidays.

The Equal Pay Act makes provision for the removal and prevention of discrimination, based on the sex of the employee, in the rates or remuneration for males and females in paid employment.  Teachers, police officers, public servants, the Medical Association, industrial workers, and some members of the private sector, especially in financial services, operate under collective bargaining agreements.

The Protection of Employment Act No. 20 of 2003 allows for severance.  Article 27 (1) allows employees to ask that their services be deemed as severed after six weeks of being laid off from work.  There is typically no unemployment insurance or other social security safety net programs for workers laid off for economic reasons.  The government, however, offered limited cash grants to some workers whose employment was impacted by the layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The law provides for a minimum working age of 16.  This provision is generally observed in practice.  Compulsory primary and secondary education policies reinforce minimum age requirements.  The Labor Department has a small cadre of labor inspectors who conduct spot investigations of enterprises and checked records to verify compliance with the labor laws.  These inspectors may refer cases to the police and the public prosecutor’s office for legal action against an employer who employs underage workers.

Investors in the country are responsible for maintaining workers’ rights and safeguarding the natural environment.  Workers have the right to report and/or leave unsafe work environments without jeopardy to continued employment.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $823 2019 825 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 7 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 -1 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 13.5 UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html 

* Source for Host Country Data: Eastern Caribbean Central Bank https://eccb-centralbank.org/statistics/dashboard-datas/

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Political/Economic Section
U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
Telephone Number:  246-227-4000
Email Address:  BridgetownPolEcon@state.gov

Trinidad and Tobago

Executive Summary

Trinidad and Tobago (TT) is a high-income developing country with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $17,397 and an annual GDP of $24.3 billion (2019). It has the largest economy in the English-speaking Caribbean and is the third most populous country in the region with 1.4 million inhabitants. The International Monetary Fund predicts GDP for 2021 will increase by 2.6 percent as the economy rebounds following the economic impact of coronavirus mitigation. TT’s investment climate is generally open and most investment barriers have been eliminated, but stifling bureaucracy and opaque procedures remain.

Energy exploration and production drive TT’s economy. This sector has historically attracted the most foreign direct investment. The energy sector usually accounts for approximately half of GDP and 80 percent of export earnings. Petrochemicals and steel are other sectors accounting for significant foreign investment. Since the economy is tethered to the energy sector, it is particularly vulnerable to fluctuating prices for hydrocarbons and petrochemicals.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 86 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 105 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 98 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $6,200 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $17,010 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Trinidad and Tobago seeks foreign direct investment and has traditionally welcomed U.S. investors.

The U.S. Mission is not aware of laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors but some have seen the decision-making process for tenders and the subsequent awarding of contracts turn opaque without warning, especially when their interests compete with those of well-connected local firms.

InvesTT is the country’s investment promotion agency that assists investors through the process of setting up a non-energy business and provides aftercare services once established. Specifically, it provides market information; offers advice on accessing investment incentives; and assists with regulatory and registry issues; property and location services; creation of business linkages; problem solving; and advocacy to the government. The Trinidad and Tobago International Financial Center is another investment promotion agency whose mission is to attract and facilitate foreign direct investment in the financial services sector.

While Trinidad and Tobago prioritizes investment retention, the U.S. Mission is not aware of a formal, ongoing dialogue with investors, either through an Ombudsman or formal business roundtable.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

There are no limits on foreign ownership. Under the Foreign Investment Act of 1990, a foreign investor is permitted to own 100 percent of the share capital in a private company. A license is required to own more than a 30 percent of a public company.

The U.S. Mission is not aware of any sector-specific restrictions or limitations applied to U.S. investors.

Trinidad and Tobago maintains an investment screening mechanism for foreign investment related to specific projects that have been submitted for the purpose of accessing sector-specific incentives, such as for those offered in the tourism industry.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization conducted a trade policy review for Trinidad and Tobago in 2019: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp488_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

The government’s business facilitation efforts focus primarily on investor services (helping deal with rules and procedures) through its investment promotion agency and trying to make the rules more transparent and predictable overall. However, more work needs to be done to achieve efficient administrative procedures and dispute resolution. Trinidad and Tobago ranks 158th of 190 countries for registering property, 174th for enforcing contracts, and 160th for payment of taxes in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, representing a deterioration of indicators that reflect a difficulty of doing business.

The business registration website is: www.ttbizlink.gov.tt . The Global Enterprise Registration Network (GER) gives the TT business registration website a below-average score of 3 out of 10 for its single electronic window, and 4.5 out of 10 for providing information on how to register a business (TTconnect.gov.tt). While the process is clear, the inability to make online payments, and submit certificates online requests are the two main reasons for the low score. A feedback mechanism allowing users to communicate with authorities is a strength of the TT business registration website. Foreign companies can use the website and business registration requires completion of seven procedures over a period of 10 days. The agencies with which a company must typically register include:

  • Companies Registry, Ministry of Legal Affairs
  • Board of Inland Revenue
  • National Insurance Board; and
  • Value Added Tax (VAT Office, Board of Inland Revenue)

Outward Investment

The host government does not promote or incentivize outward investment.

The host government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Through the Trinidad and Tobago Fair Trading Commission, the government develops transparent policies and effective laws to foster market-based competition on a non-discriminatory basis and establishes “clear rules of the game.” Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms

There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.

Rule-making and regulatory authority exist within the ministries and regulatory agencies at the national level. The government consults frequently, but not always, with international agencies and business associations in developing regulations. The government submits draft regulations to parliament for approval. The process is the same for each ministry.

Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms. International financial reporting standards are required for domestic public companies.

Proposed laws and regulations are often published in draft form electronically for public review at http://www.ttparliament.org/, though there is no legal obligation to do so. The government often solicits private sector and business community comments on proposed legislation, though there is no timeframe for the length of a consultation period when it happens, nor is reporting on the consultations mandatory.

All draft bills and regulations are printed in the official gazette and other websites: www.news.gov.tt/content/e-gazette# 

  • ;

The U.S. Mission is not aware of an oversight or enforcement mechanism that ensures that the government follows administrative processes.

There has not been any announcement regarding reforms to the regulatory system, including enforcement, since the last ICS report. Regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years, such as the mechanism to calculate and collect property tax and the establishment of the revenue authority, have not been fully implemented.

Establishment of the revenue authority is intended to increase collections and streamline the system for paying taxes.

At present, regulatory enforcement mechanisms are usually a combination of moral suasion and the use of applicable administrative, civil, or criminal sanctions. The enforcement process is not legally reviewable.

Regulation is usually reviewed based on scientific or data-driven assessments. Scientific studies or quantitative analyses are not made publicly available. Public comments received by regulators are generally not made public.

Public finances and debt obligations are transparent and publicly available on the central bank website: https://www.central-bank.org.tt

International Regulatory Considerations

Trinidad and Tobago is not a part of a regional economic block, though it is part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a regional trading bloc that gives duty-free access to member goods, free movement to some members and establishes common treatment of non-members on specific issues. The Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) is an initiative currently being explored by CARICOM that would eventually integrate its member-states into a single economic unit. When fully completed, the CSME would succeed CARICOM.

Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally consistent with United Kingdom standards.

The government has not consistently notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of draft technical regulations.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

TT’s legal system is based on English common law. Contracts are legally enforced through the court system.

The country has a written commercial law. There are few specialized courts, making the resolution of legal claims time consuming. An industrial court exclusively handles cases relating to labor practices but also suffers from severe backlogs and is widely seen to favor claimants.

Civil cases of less than $2,250 are heard by the Magistrate’s Court. Matters exceeding that amount are heard in the High Court of Justice, which can grant equitable relief. There is no court or division of a court dedicated solely to hearing commercial cases.

TT’s judicial system is independent of the executive, and the judicial process is competent, procedurally and substantively fair, and reliable, although very slow. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, Trinidad and Tobago ranks 174 of 190 in ease of enforcing contracts, and its court system requires 1,340 days to resolve a contract claim, nearly double the Latin American and Caribbean regional average.

Decisions may be appealed to the Court of Appeal in the first instance. The United Kingdom Privy Council Judicial Committee is the final court of appeal.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

TT’s judicial system respects the sanctity of contracts and generally provides a level playing field for foreign investors involved in court matters. Due to the backlog of cases, however, there can be major delays in the process. It is imperative that foreign investors seek competent local legal counsel. Some U.S. companies are hesitant to pursue legal remedies, preferring to attempt good faith negotiations in order to avoid an acrimonious relationship that could harm their interests in the country’s small, tight-knit business community.

There is no “one-stop-shop” website for investment providing relevant laws, rules, and procedures. Useful websites to help navigate foreign investment laws, rules, and procedures include: http://www.legalaffairs.gov.tt 

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The Trinidad and Tobago Fair Trading Commission is an independent statutory agency responsible for promoting and maintaining fair competition in the domestic market. It is tasked with investigating the various forms of anti-competitive business conduct set out in the Fair-Trading Act. Legislation operationalizing this agency in 2006 was not proclaimed by the president until February 2020, and in that time no cases that involve foreign investment have arisen.

Expropriation and Compensation

The government can legally expropriate property based on the needs of the country and only after due process including adequate compensation, generally based on market value. Various pieces of legislation make provisions for compulsory licensing in the interest of public health or intellectual property rights.

The U.S. Mission is not aware of any direct or indirect expropriation actions since the 1980s. All prior expropriations were compensated to the satisfaction of the parties involved. Energy sector contacts occasionally describe the tax regime as confiscatory, pointing to after-the-fact withdrawal or weakening of tax incentives offered to entice investment once investment occurs.

Claimants did not allege a lack of due process in prior expropriation cases.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

TT is a party to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) and the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York convention).

Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards according to chapter 20 of the Arbitration (Foreign Arbitral Awards) Act 1996.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The bilateral investment treaty between the United States and TT recognizes binding arbitration of investment disputes.

The U.S. Mission is not aware of any claims by U.S. investors under the bilateral investment treaty with the United States.

The U.S. Mission is unaware of any disputes involving U.S. or other foreign investors over the past 10 years. There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Some of the available types of alternative dispute resolution include mediation and arbitration. The Civil Proceedings Rules encourage parties to make reasonable attempts to resolve their disputes amicably with litigation as a last resort.  Mediation and arbitration are most commonly used.

There is a domestic dispute resolution center that offers arbitration services. Domestic legislation, the Arbitration Act of 1939, is based on early English arbitration legislation and is not modeled on internationally accepted regulations.

The U.S. Mission has no records of any investment disputes involving an state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Bankruptcy Regulations

Creditors have the right to be notified within 10 days of the appointment of a receiver and to receive a final report, a statement of accounts, and an assessment of claim. Claims of secured creditors are prioritized under the Bankruptcy Act. No distinction is made between foreign and domestic creditors or contract holders. Bankruptcy is not criminalized.

The World Bank ranked TT 83rd out of 190 countries in resolving insolvency in its Doing Business 2020 report. This reflects TT’s recovery rate (cents on the dollar), which is worse than the regional average, and cost as a percentage of estate.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Investment incentives include the following: exemption from import duties and customs duties; tax credits and deferrals; cash refunds; carry-over of losses; and access to loans. These are available equally to foreign and domestic investors, but delays in cash refund payments are a frequent complaint of those due them. Additional information is available on the following websites: https://www.finance.gov.tt/mof-investment-incentives-in-trinidad-and-tobago/ 

The government sometimes jointly finances foreign direct investment projects, but it is not common.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Free Zones Act of 1988 (last amended in 1997) established the TT Free Zones Company (TTFZ) to promote export development and encourage both foreign and local investment projects in a relatively bureaucracy-free, duty-free, and tax-free environment. Foreign owned firms have the same investment opportunities as Trinidad and Tobago entities. There are currently 15 approved enterprises located in 12 free zones. Just three are located within a multiple-user site in north-central Trinidad. The minister of trade and industry can designate any suitable area in TT as a free zone.

Free zone enterprises are exempt from customs duties on capital goods, parts, and raw materials for use in the construction and equipping of premises and in connection with the approved activity; import and export licensing requirements; land and building taxes; work permit fees; foreign currency and property ownership restrictions; capital gains taxes; withholding taxes on distribution of profits and corporation taxes or levies on sales or profits; VAT on goods supplied to a free zone; and duty on vehicles for use only within the free zone.

A corporation tax exemption for entities that qualify for free zone status is also in force. Application to carry out an approved activity in an existing free zone area is made on specified forms to the TTFZ.

Free zone activities that qualify for approval include manufacturing for export, international trading in products, services for export, and development and management of free zones. Activities that may be carried on in a free zone but do not qualify as approved activities include exploration and production activities involving petroleum, natural gas, or petrochemicals. For more information, please review the following website: http://ttfzco.com/ 

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government does not mandate – although it strongly encourages through negotiable incentives – projects that generate employment and foreign exchange; provide training and/or technology transfer; boost exports or reduce imports; have local content; and generally contribute to the welfare of the country.

The government does not mandate that locals be recruited to senior management and boards of directors.

Several foreign firms have encountered inconsistencies leading to long delays in the issuance of long-term work permits, but there are no explicit, onerous requirements.

There are no government/authority-imposed conditions on permission to invest.

There are no forced localization requirements.

There are no performance requirements, and thus no enforcement procedures. There is no indication of an intention to implement across-the-board performance requirements.

Investment incentives are uniform for domestic and foreign investors but offered on a case-by-case, vice across-the-board, basis.

There are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption.

There are no measures that prevent or restrict companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country.

There are no rules on local data storage within Trinidad and Tobago.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights and interests are enforced in court. Mortgages and liens exist. TT has a dual system of land titles, the old common law system and the registered land title system governed by the Real Property Act of 1946. Nearly 80 percent of land in TT remains under the more complicated common law system, which is not reliable for recording secured interests.

The Foreign Investment Act of 1990 governs the acquisition of any interest in land by foreign investors. It states that foreign investors wishing to acquire land larger than five acres must obtain a license from the Ministry of Finance. Licenses are generally granted in practice per the criteria provided here: https://www.finance.gov.tt/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/51.pdf .

It is not clear what proportion of land does not have clear title. The government does not make a defined effort to identify property owners and register land titles.

In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, Trinidad and Tobago ranked 158 out of 190 countries in ease of registering property. Reasons for the poor score include the number of procedures required (more than the regional average), the length of time required (more than the regional average) and the cost of registering property as a percentage of the property value.

Property ownership can revert to squatters if they can prove exclusive possession of another’s land, without permission, for at least 16 years in the case of private lands and 30 years on State lands.

Intellectual Property Rights

The process of protecting intellectual property involves applying for and registering patents, trademarks, or designs. Trinidad and Tobago’s intellectual property rights (IPR) legal structure is strong, but enforcement is generally weak. Infringement on rights and theft is common.

Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). In 2020, Trinidad and Tobago acceded to the Madrid Protocol on Trademarks. Implementing regulations remain in drafting for the 2000 Patent Law Treaty and the Hague Agreement on Industrial Designs.

Trinidad and Tobago does not track seizures of counterfeit goods. At its May 2019 WTO Trade Policy Review, it reported one seizure in 2018. The country has prosecuted IPR violations in the past, but such prosecutions are uncommon.

TT is listed in the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report Watch List for 2021. Challenges concern widespread copyright infringement and the country’s lack of institutional commitment to enforce IPR.

Trinidad and Tobago is not included in USTR’s 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The government welcomes foreign portfolio investment.

TT has its own stock market and has an established regulatory framework to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment. There is enough liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions.

Existing policies facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.

The government and central bank respect IMF article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payment and transfers for current international transactions. Shortages of foreign exchange, exacerbated by the government’s maintenance of the local currency at values higher than those which the market would bear, however, cause considerable delays in payments and transfers for international transactions.

A full range of credit instruments is available to the private sector. There are no restrictions on borrowing by foreign investors, who are able to access credit. Credit is allocated on market terms, but interest rates tend to be higher for foreign borrowers.

Money and Banking System

Banking services are widespread throughout urban areas, but penetration is significantly lower in rural areas.

Although the banking sector is healthy and well-capitalized, the IMF in its 2020 Financial Stability Assessment Program noted Trinidad and Tobago’s banks are exposed to sovereign risk and potential liquidity risks stemming from non-bank financial entities in the group. The financial system as a whole faces risks of increasing household debt, a lack of supervisory independence and out-of-date regulatory frameworks, the sovereign-bank nexus and the absence of a macro-prudential toolkit, and contagion risks between investment funds and banks. The report further states that the financial sector legislation and regulation have not kept pace with international best practice. The supervisors operate with guidelines in key areas instead of binding powers, which limits their authority

In 2019, the estimated total assets of Trinidad and Tobago’s largest banks was $21.9 billion.

TT has a central bank system. Foreign banks may establish operations in TT provided they obtain a license from the central bank. Trinidad and Tobago has lost correspondent banking relationships in the past three years. The U.S. Mission is not aware of any current correspondent banking relationships that are in jeopardy.

There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment.

Shortages of foreign exchange, exacerbated by the government’s maintenance of the local currency at values higher than those which the market would bear, cause considerable delays in conversion into world currencies. Businesses continue to report a cumbersome bureaucratic process and a minimum three-month delay in such conversions.

The central bank intervenes to maintain an unofficial peg to the U.S. dollar, using a managed float in which the exchange rate fluctuates mildly day-to-day, and limits the availability of foreign currency.

Remittance Policies

While there are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies to tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances, commercial banks have enacted policies that limit access to foreign exchange due to national shortages, on guidance from the Ministry of Finance and the central bank.

Although there are no official time limitations on remittances, timeliness of remittances depends on availability of foreign currency.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The value of TT’s Heritage and Stabilization Fund the fund as of September 2020 is approximately $5.7 billion. The fund invests in U.S. short duration fixed income, U.S. core domestic fixed income, U.S. core domestic equities, and non-U.S. core international equities.

The sovereign wealth fund (SWF) follows the voluntary code of good practices known as the Santiago Principles. TT participates in the IMF-hosted International Working Group on Sovereign Wealth Funds.

None of the SWF is invested domestically. There are no potentially negative ramifications for U.S. investors in the local market.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

TT has 57 SOEs comprised of 44 wholly owned companies, eight majority-owned, and five in which the government has a minority share. SOEs are in the energy, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, financial services, transportation, and communication sectors. Information on the total assets of SOEs, total net income of SOEs and number of people employed by SOEs is not available. The Investments Division of the Ministry of Finance appoints directors to the boards of state enterprises, reportedly at the direction of the minister of finance. SOEs are often informally or explicitly obligated to consult with government officials before making major business decisions. According to TT’s constitution, the government is entitled to: exercise control directly or indirectly over the affairs of the enterprise

  • exercise control directly or indirectly over the affairs of the enterprise
  • appoint a majority of directors of the board of directors of the enterprise; and
  • hold at least 50 per cent of the ordinary share capital of the enterprise

A published list of SOEs for 2021 can be found here: https://www.finance.gov.tt/2020/10/05/state-enterprise-investment-programme-2021/ 

In sectors that are open to both the private sector and foreign competition, SOEs are sometimes favored for government contracts, which might negatively impact U.S. investors in the market.

The country has not adhered to the OECD corporate governance guidelines for SOEs.

Privatization Program

TT does not have a privatization program in place, but the government has issued initial public offerings of various state-owned companies to obtain revenue, primarily in the finance and energy sectors.

Foreign investors can participate in the initial public offerings of SOEs.

The purchase of initial public offering shares on past occasions was open to the public, easy to understand, non-discriminatory, and transparent. For example: https://ngc.co.tt/media/news/ngl-initial-public-offering-brokerage-details/ 

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is general awareness of expectations of, and standards for, responsible business conduct (RBC), including obligations to proactively conduct due diligence to ensure businesses are doing no harm, including with regards to environmental, social, and governance issues.

The government has not put forward a clear definition of responsible business conduct, nor does it have specific policies to promote and encourage it. The government has not conducted a national action plan on RBC, nor does it currently factor it into procurement decisions.

There have not been any high-profile, controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights.

TT has laws to ensure protection of human rights, labor rights, consumers, and the environment. Enforcement, however, is lacking due to staffing shortages, capacity issues, and a bureaucratic judiciary.

Government, in collaboration with civil society, created the TT Corporate Governance Code, which incorporates governance, accounting, and executive compensation standards to protect shareholders. The code, however, is not mandatory.

The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago that freely advocates for responsible business conduct and improved corporate governance practices in the Caribbean.

The government does not encourage adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. There are no domestic measures requiring supply chain due diligence for companies sourcing minerals originating from conflict-affected areas.

As a member of the EITI, the government publicly declares annually all revenues received from companies engaged in the extractive industries. The companies, in turn, publicly declare payments to the government.

Trinidad and Tobago is not a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Various pieces of legislation address corruption of public officials:

  • The Integrity in Public Life Act requires public officials to disclose assets upon taking office and at the end of tenure.
  • The Freedom of Information Act gives members of the public a general right (with specified exceptions) of access to official documents of public authorities. The intention of the act was to address the public’s concerns of corruption and to promote a system of open and good governance. In compliance with the act, designated officers in each ministry and statutory authority process applications for information.
  • The Police Complaints Authority Act establishes a mechanism for complaints against police officers in relation to, among other things, police misconduct and police corruption.
  • The Prevention of Corruption Act provides for certain offences and punishment of corruption in public office.

The laws are non-discriminatory in their infrequent application. Effectiveness of these measures has been limited by a lack of thorough enforcement.

The laws do not extend to family members of officials or to political parties.

TT does not have laws or regulations to counter conflicts of interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

The government has been a party to the development of corporate governance standards (non-binding) to encourage private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials.

Some private companies, particularly the larger ones, use internal controls and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials, though this is not a government requirement.

Trinidad and Tobago adheres to the UN Anticorruption Convention.

There are no protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption, but investigations are not feared since corrupt actors are rarely punished.

U.S. firms often say corruption is an obstacle to FDI, particularly in government procurement, since TT’s procurement processes are not transparent.

Resources to Report Corruption

Mr. Justice Melville Baird
Chairman
The Integrity Commission
P.O. Box 1253, Port of Spain

The Integrity Commission of Trinidad and Tobago
Level 14, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre,
1A Wrightson Road, Port of Spain
868-623-8305
registrar@inegritycommission.org.tt 

Mr. Dion Abdool
Chairman
Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute
(local chapter of Transparency International)
Unit 4-12, Building 7, Fernandes Industrial Centre, Laventille
868-626-5756
admin@transparency.org.tt 

10. Political and Security Environment

While non-violent demonstrations occur on occasion, widespread civil disorder is not typical. There have been no serious incidents of political violence since a coup attempt in 1990.

Subsequent to the closure of state oil firm Petrotrin in November 2018, which resulted in the lay-off of nearly 6,000 workers, there were reports of damage to installations.

Certain areas of TT are increasingly insecure due to a critical level of violent crime. 11. Labor Policies and Practices

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The labor market includes many skilled and experienced workers, and the educational level of the population is among the top 10 in North America, according to the Human Development Index, though there is a gap between official literacy statistics and functional literacy. In 2020, the modeled International Labor Organization estimate of unemployment was 6.7 percent, while youth unemployment rate (15-24 years of age) was estimated at 9.1 percent in 2019.

Agricultural employment accounts for 3.6 percent of total employment while employment in services accounts for over 60 percent. The estimated non-agricultural workforce in the informal economy is 10 percent of the overall labor force. Trinidad and Tobago’s workforce includes not only TT nationals but also citizens of 11 other CARICOM countries as part of the free movement of labor without the need to obtain a work permit. In 2019, Trinidad and Tobago granted 16,523 “Venezuelan migrants” the right to work in the country for a period of one year under a temporary protective status. In 2021, the government allowed registered Venezuelan refugees a one-year extension of status.

Trinidad and Tobago is a net importer of expatriate labor, including doctors, nurses, construction workers, and extractive industry specialists. There are surpluses of accountants and attorneys and shortages of unskilled workers for the hospitality, retail, and agriculture sectors. The government subsidizes tertiary-level education for citizens whose income falls within a minimum range. The Multi-Sector Skills Training Program provides training in construction and hospitality and tourism for eligible citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. The government also encourages continuing learning opportunities for the disadvantaged via the Skills Training Program, which develops skills that can aid in the creation of home-based production of goods and services and employment generation.

There is no government policy requiring hiring of nationals, though it is encouraged, particularly in the energy sector.

There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment to respond to fluctuating market conditions via severance. Labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing. The Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act provides guidance on who is entitled to receive what based on specific circumstances. Severance pay is usually only paid to retirees and workers who have been made redundant. An employer is not required to pay severance to workers if everyone is severed, since the business is being closed. If, however, only a portion of the workforce is rendered redundant, the employer must pay severance. Unemployment insurance does not exist for workers who have been laid off for economic reasons, but programs designed to help job seekers get employed as quickly as possible are available. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government instituted a 3-6-month unemployment benefit program for those laid off.

Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment. There are no separate labor law provisions for special economic zones, trade zones, or free ports.

Collective bargaining is common, with approximately 15 percent of the population covered by collective bargaining agreements. Government workers, including civil servants, police officers, firefighters, military personnel, and staff in several state-owned enterprises, are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Unions are also quite active in the energy, steel, and telecommunications industries. Collective bargaining takes place between the firm and the recognized majority union rather than on an industry-wide basis. The government as an employer also bargains collectively. The process of collective bargaining is regulated by the Industrial Relations Act. There are close to 30 active, independent labor unions in TT.

The Industrial Relations Act (IRA) provides for dispute resolution through an industrial court in instances where the issue cannot be resolved by collective bargaining or through conciliation efforts by the Ministry of Labor.

There was no strike in the past year that posed an investment risk.

The International Labor Organization has not identified any compliance gaps in law or practice regarding international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors. The government does not have a labor inspectorate system to identify and remediate labor violations, but the industrial court investigates and prosecutes unfair labor practices, such as harassment and/or improper dismissal of union members.

There were no new labor related laws or regulations enacted or in draft over the last year. 12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and Other Investment Insurance or Development Finance Programs

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

 

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $2,310 2019 $2,430 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $6,249 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $69 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 1% UNCTAD data available at https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html 

* Source for Host Country Data: Trinidad and Tobago Central Bank:  Homepage | Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (central-bank.org.tt)

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Marissa Nicholas

Commercial Specialist

15 Queen’s Park West

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago +1 (868) 622-6371 ext. 5933

+1 (868) 622-6371 ext. 5933 poscommercial@state.gov 

poscommercial@state.gov 

Investment Climate Statements
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select a Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future