Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Area: 5,128 sq. km. (1,980 sq. mi.), about 1.5
times the size of Rhode Island. Trinidad--4,828
sq. km. (1,864 sq. mi). Tobago--300 sq.
km. (116 sq. mi).
Cities: Capital--Port of Spain
(metropolitan pop. 310,000). Other cities--San
Fernando, Chaguanas, Arima, Scarborough.
Terrain: Plains and low mountains.
Climate: Tropical; principal rainy season is
June through December.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Trinidadian(s)
Population (2004 est.): 1.3 million.
Annual growth rate: 0.6%.
Ethnic groups (2000): East Indian 40.0%, African
37.5%, mixed 20.5%, European 0.6%, Chinese 0.3%,
other/not stated 1.1%.
Religions (2000): Roman Catholic 26.0%, Hindu
22.5%, Protestant 24.6% (Anglican 7.8%,
Pentecostal 6.8%, Baptist 1.8%, Methodist 0.8%);
Islam 5.8%; Shouter Baptist 5.4%; other
Education: Years compulsory--8.
Health (1999 est.): Infant mortality rate--18.6/1,000.
Life expectancy--68 yrs. male; 73 yrs.
Work force (613,000 in 2004): Trade and services
53.4%, construction 16.4%, government 10.3%,
manufacturing 10.0%, agriculture/sugar 4.9%,
oil/gas 3.2%, utilities 1.4%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Independence: August 31, 1962.
Present constitution: September 24, 1976.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of
state), prime minister (head of government),
parliament. Judicial--independent court
system; highest court of appeal is Privy Council
Subdivisions: Nine regions, two cities, three
boroughs (Trinidad); Tobago House of Assembly.
Political parties: People's National Movement
(PNM), United National Congress (UNC), National
Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Economy (2004 est.)
GDP: U.S. $11.6 billion (nominal).
Annual growth rate: 6.2% (real).
Per capita income: U.S. $8,923.
Natural resources: Oil and natural gas, timber,
Petroleum (crude oil, natural gas,
petrochemicals): 40.1% of GDP.
Financial services: 13.1% of GDP.
Distribution including restaurants: 12.6% of
Manufacturing (food and beverages, assembly,
chemicals, printing): 6.8% of GDP.
Construction: 6.0% of GDP.
Transport/storage/communication: 8.4% of GDP.
Government: 5.6% of GDP.
Education, cultural community services: 2.2% of
Electricity and water: 1.6% of GDP.
Agriculture (sugar, poultry, other meat,
vegetables, citrus): 0.8% of GDP.
Hotels and guesthouses: 0.3% of GDP.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Columbus landed on and named Trinidad in 1498,
and Spaniards settled the island a century
later. Spanish colonizers largely wiped out the
original inhabitants--Arawak and Carib
Indians--and the survivors were gradually
assimilated. Although it attracted French, free
black, and other non-Spanish settlers, Trinidad
remained under Spanish rule until the British
captured it in 1797. During the colonial period,
Trinidad's economy relied on large sugar and
cocoa plantations. Tobago's development was
similar to other plantation islands in the
Lesser Antilles and quite different from
Trinidad. During the colonial period, French,
Dutch, and British forces fought over possession
of Tobago, and the island changed hands 22
times--more often than any other West Indies
island. Britain took final possession of Tobago
in 1803. The two islands of Trinidad and Tobago
were incorporated into a single colony in 1888.
Trinidad and Tobago achieved full independence
in 1962 and joined the British Commonwealth.
The people of Trinidad and Tobago are mainly
of African or East Indian descent. Virtually all
speak English. Small percentages also speak
Hindi, French patois, and several other
dialects. Trinidad has two major folk
traditions: Creole and East Indian. Creole is a
mixture of African elements with Spanish,
French, and English colonial culture. Trinidad's
East Indian culture came to the island with
indentured servants brought to fill a labor
shortage created by the emancipation of the
African slaves in 1833. Most remained on the
land, and they still dominate the agricultural
sector, but many have become prominent in
business and the professions. East Indians have
retained much of their own way of life,
including Hindu and Muslim religious festivals
Trinidad and Tobago is a unitary state, with a
parliamentary democracy modeled after that of
Great Britain. Although completely independent,
Trinidad and Tobago acknowledged the British
monarch as the figurehead chief of state from
1962 until 1976. In 1976 the country adopted a
republican Constitution, replacing Queen
Elizabeth with a president elected by
Parliament. The general direction and control of
the government rests with the cabinet, led by a
prime minister and answerable to the bicameral
The 36 members of the House of
Representatives are elected to terms of at least
5 years. Elections may be called earlier by the
president at the request of the prime minister
or after a vote of no confidence in the House of
Representatives. The Senate's 31 members are
appointed by the president: sixteen on the
advice of the prime minister, six on the advice
of the leader of the opposition, and nine
independents selected by the president from
among outstanding members of the community.
Elected councils administer the nine regional,
two city, and three borough corporations on
Trinidad. Since 1980 the Tobago House of
Assembly has governed Tobago.
The country's highest court is the Court of
Appeal, whose chief justice is appointed by the
president after consultation with the prime
minister and leader of the opposition. The
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in
London decides final appeal on some matters.
Member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
selected Trinidad as the headquarters site for
the new Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which
is intended eventually to replace the Privy
Council for all CARICOM states. The CCJ heard
its first case in August 2005. Despite having
its seat in Port of Spain, the CCJ has not yet
supplanted the Privy Council for Trinidad and
Tobago due to a legislative dispute over
Principal Government Officials
President--George Maxwell Richards
Prime Minister--Patrick Manning
Attorney General--John Jeremie
Chief Justice--Satnarine Sharma
Selected Short List of Key Ministers
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Knowlson Gift
Minister of Energy and Energy Industries--Eric
Minister of Finance--Conrad Enill
Minister of National Security--Martin Joseph
Minister of Tourism--Howard Chin Lee
Minister of Trade and Industry--Kenneth Valley
Ambassador to the U.S. and to the OAS--Marina
Ambassador to the UN--Phillip Sealey
embassy of the Republic of Trinidad and
Tobago is located at 1708 Massachusetts Avenue
NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-467-6490;
The first political party in Trinidad and
Tobago with a continuing organization and
program--the People's National Movement
(PNM)--emerged in 1956 under Dr. Eric Williams,
who became Prime Minister upon independence and
remained in that position until his death in
1981. Politics have generally run along ethnic
lines, with Afro-Trinidadians supporting the PNM
and Indo-Trinidadians supporting various
Indian-majority parties, such as the United
National Congress (UNC). Most political parties,
however, have sought to broaden their purview.
The PNM remained in power following the death
of Dr. Williams, but its 30-year rule ended in
1986 when the National Alliance for
Reconstruction (NAR), a rainbow party aimed at
Trinidadians of both African and Indian descent,
won a landslide victory by capturing 33 of 36
seats. Tobago's A.N.R. Robinson, the NAR
political leader, became Prime Minister. The NAR
began to break down when the Indian component
withdrew in 1988. Basdeo Panday, leader of the
old United Labor Front (ULF), formed the new
opposition with the UNC.
In July 1990, the Jamaat al Muslimeen, an
extremist Black Muslim group with an unresolved
grievance against the government over land
claims, tried to overthrow the NAR government.
The group held the prime minister and members of
parliament hostage for 5 days while rioting and
looting shook Port of Spain. After a long
standoff with the police and military, Jamaat
leader Yasin Abu Bakr and his followers
surrendered to Trinidad and Tobago authorities.
In 1992 the Court of Appeal upheld the validity
of a government amnesty given to the Jamaat
members during the hostage crisis. Abu Bakr and
113 other Jamaat members were jailed for two
years while other courts debated the amnesty's
validity. All 114 members were eventually
released after a ruling by the U.K. Privy
In 1991 elections, the NAR lost control of
the government to the PNM, led by Patrick
Manning who became prime minister. The Panday-led
UNC finished second and replaced the NAR as
chief opposition party. In 1995 Manning called
for elections, in which the PNM and UNC both won
17 seats and the NAR won two seats. The UNC
allied with the NAR and formed the new
government, with Panday becoming prime
minister--the first prime minister of East
Indian descent. Although elections held in 2000
returned the UNC to power, the UNC government
fell in 2001 with the defection of three of its
parliamentarians, and the subsequent elections
resulted in an even 18-18 split between the UNC
and the PNM. President A.N.R. Robinson
ironically bypassed his former party colleague
Panday by inviting PNM leader Manning to form a
government, but the inability to break the tie
delayed Parliament from meeting. Manning called
elections in 2002, following which the PNM
formed the next government with a 20-16
majority. The next elections must be held by
2007, and both parties have spent part of 2005
attempting to prepare for those polls. Latest
speculation is whether Panday, facing trial for
alleged corruption during his tenure as prime
minister, will be replaced in October as UNC
leader to allow a new generation to take over.
Manning shows every indication of intending to
continue in office.
Both parties are committed to free market
economic policies and increased foreign
investment. Trinidad and Tobago has remained
cooperative with the United States in the
regional fight against narcotics trafficking and
on other issues.
The twin-island nation of Trinidad and
Tobago continues to experience real GDP growth
as a result of economic reforms, tight monetary
policy and fiscal responsibility, and high oil
prices. In 2004 the country experienced a real
GDP growth rate of 6.2%, which followed 13.2%
growth in 2003. The PNM-led government has
continued the sound macroeconomic policies of
the previous UNC government. Long-term growth
looks promising, as Trinidad and Tobago further
develops its oil and gas resources and the
industries dependent on natural gas, including
petrochemicals, fertilizers, iron/steel and
aluminum. Additional growth potential also
exists in financial services, telecommunications
and transport. Strong growth in Trinidad and
Tobago over the past few years has led to trade
surpluses, even with high import levels due to
industrial expansion and increased consumer
demand. The debt service ratio, 15.4% in 1997,
fell to as low as 3.7% in 2001 and was a
moderate 4.7% in 2004. Unemployment, which was
12.1% in 2001, had fallen to 8.4% by 2004.
Inflation, however, has begun to worsen with
prices rising at an annualized rate of 7.34% in
March 2005, as opposed to 5.6% in December 2004.
Food prices have been rising at a rate of over
20% in the first half of 2005, and the Central
Bank has raised interest rates twice in 2005
after no action for several years. There are no
currency or capital controls and the central
bank maintains the TT dollar in a lightly
managed, stable float against the U.S. dollar.
The exchange rate in mid-2005 was about TT
Trinidad and Tobago has made a transition
from an oil-based economy to one based on
natural gas. In 2004, natural gas production
averaged 2.9 trillion cubic feet per day (tcf/d),
an increase of 12.9% from 2003. The
petrochemical sector, including plants producing
methanol, ammonia, urea, and natural gas
liquids, has continued to grow in line with
natural gas production, which continues to
expand and should meet the needs of new
industrial plants coming on stream in the next
few years. The major development in 2005 will be
the likely opening of the fourth production
module or "train" for liquefied natural gas
(LNG) at Atlantic LNG. Train 4 will increase
Atlantic LNG overall output by almost 50% and
will be the largest LNG train in the world at
5.2 million tons/year of LNG. Trinidad and
Tobago is the 5th largest exporter of LNG in the
world and the single largest supplier of LNG to
the U.S., supplying between 70-75% of all LNG
imported into the U.S. Overall, the petroleum
sector grew by 10.5% in 2004, the third straight
year of double-digit growth.
The non-energy sector grew at a slower pace
in 2004. Output in this sector increased by a
modest 2.9% in 2004 compared to 3.8% in 2003
with the impetus coming from the Manufacturing
and Services sectors. The rate of growth in the
Manufacturing sector was 6.6% in 2004, thanks to
the Food, Beverages and Tobacco, and
Assembly-Type industries. The Services sector
grew by 2.9%, led by Construction. Construction
sector growth was due mainly to Trinidad and
Tobago Government investment in housing and
infrastructure, and ongoing projects in the
energy sector. Performance in the Agriculture
sector has been weak and declined by 20.2% in
2004. The decline in output resulted largely
from the shrinking and restructuring of the
sugar industry. Recognizing the role that energy
plays in the economic life of Trinidad and
Tobago, where it was the source last year of 37%
of governmental revenues, the government is
seeking to diversify the economy to reduce
dependence on the energy sector and to achieve
self-sustaining growth. The diversification
strategy focuses on six main sectors:
traditional manufacturing; a new
technology-based industrial sector; tourism;
financial services; agriculture; and small
The investment climate is good. Since 1992,
almost all investment barriers have been
eliminated. The government continues to welcome
foreign investors. The government has a double
taxation agreement, a bilateral investment
treaty and an intellectual property rights
agreement with the United States. U.S.
investment in Trinidad and Tobago exceeds a
billion dollars. Total foreign direct investment
has averaged $700 million annually over the last
decade. Among recent and ongoing investment
projects are several involving U.S. firms: ISG
Trinidad started operations in November 2004 in
a plant that has the capacity to produce 500,000
metric tons annually of hot briquetted iron.
Nucor has received approval from the Trinidad
and Tobago Government to set up a plant to
produce up to 1.5 million tons annually of
direct reduced iron. Two aluminum smelter plants
are also planned, one of them to be owned by
ALCOA. The first major business-class hotel to
be opened in several years bears the Marriott
Courtyard brand. Hyatt has announced plans to
manage a property at the multimillion-dollar
port development project in Port of Spain.
Trinidad and Tobago's infrastructure is
adequate by regional standards. Expansion of the
Crown Point airport on Tobago is being planned,
which follows opening of the Piarco terminal on
Trinidad in 2000. There is an extensive network
of paved roads. Traffic is a worsening problem
throughout Trinidad, as the road network is not
well suited to the volume of vehicles, and no
mass transport system exists as an alternative.
Utilities are fairly reliable in cities, but
some rural areas suffer from water shortages,
power failures, and inadequate drainage.
Infrastructure improvement is one of the
government’s budget priorities, especially
rehabilitating rural roads and bridges, rural
electrification, flood control and improved
drainage and sewerage. A multi-year plan for
light rail transport has been announced.
Telephone service is modern and reliable,
although significantly more costly to consumers
than comparable U.S. service, including for
wireline, wireless and broadband services.
Change began this year in the wireless market
when the new Telecommunications Authority
invited two firms to offer competition to
state-owned monopoly incumbent TSTT (co-owned by
Cable & Wireless). The new wireless providers,
Digicel and Laqtel, are planning to provide
service by 2006. Long distance, cable and
Internet services have not yet been deregulated,
but the government has indicated that it will do
so in those markets as well, beginning with
cable TV. Internet has come into widespread use,
but broadband services are limited to a few
upscale residential areas, although some
wireless "hot spots" have emerged. Improvements
in service and price are likely as TSTT prepares
itself to meet competition for Internet services
in coming years.
As the most industrialized and second-largest
country in the English-speaking Caribbean,
Trinidad and Tobago has taken a leading role in
the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM),
and strongly supports CARICOM economic
integration efforts. CARICOM members are working
to establish a Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Trinidad and Tobago and two other CARICOM
members have made strides toward launching the
first phases of CSME by 2006.
Trinidad and Tobago is active in the Summit
of the Americas process of Organization of
American States (OAS). It recently hosted
hemisphere-wide ministerial meetings on energy
(2004) and education (2005), as well as an OAS
meeting on terrorism and security (also 2005).
It also hosted a negotiating session in 2003 for
the OAS Free Trade Area of the Americas, and
aspires to hosting an eventual FTAA secretariat.
Trinidad and Tobago is a democracy that
maintains close relations with its Caribbean
neighbors and major North American and European
trading partners. After its 1962 independence,
Trinidad and Tobago joined the UN and the
Commonwealth. In 1967, it became the first
Commonwealth country to join the OAS. In 1995,
Trinidad played host to the inaugural meeting of
the Association of Caribbean States and has
become the headquarters location for this
25-member grouping, which seeks to further
economic progress and integration among its
U.S.-TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO RELATIONS
The United States and Trinidad and Tobago enjoy
cordial relations. U.S. interests here and
throughout the hemisphere focus on increasing
investment and trade, and securing more stable
supplies of energy. They also include enhancing
Trinidad and Tobago's political and social
stability and positive regional role through
assistance in drug interdiction, health issues,
and legal affairs. The U.S. embassy was
established in Port of Spain in 1962, replacing
the former consulate general.
In 1999, bilateral assistance from all
sources to Trinidad and Tobago amounted to more
than $3 million, mostly Department of State
grants, counter-narcotics assistance,
International Military Education and Training (IMET)
funds, and Foreign Military Financing (FMF)
funds. IMET and FMF programs were suspended in
July 2003 under the terms of the American
Service members Protection Act (ASPA), because
Trinidad and Tobago, a member of the
International Criminal Court, has not concluded
a bilateral non-surrender or "Article 98"
agreement with the United States. Currently, the
main source of financial assistance provided to
the defense force is through International
Narcotics Law Enforcement and Traditional
Commander's Activities funds. Assistance to
Trinidad and Tobago from U.S. military, law
enforcement authorities, and in the area of
health issues remains important to the bilateral
relationship and to accomplishing U.S. policy
The U.S. Government also provides technical
assistance to the Government of Trinidad and
Tobago through a number of existing agreements.
The Department of Homeland Security has a
Customs Advisory Team working with the Ministry
of Finance to update its procedures. Similarly,
the Treasury Department has an IRS advising team
that works with the Board of Inland Revenue
modernizing its tax administration. The U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), a part of the Department of Health and
Human Services, has a regional office here that
works with the Caribbean Epidemiology Center
(CAREC) and other regional partners to provide
prevention, care and treatment in response to
the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean.
U.S. commercial ties with Trinidad and Tobago
have always been strong and have grown
substantially in the last several years due to
economic liberalization. U.S. firms have
invested more than a billion dollars in recent
years--mostly in the petrochemical, oil/gas, and
iron/steel sectors. Many of America's largest
corporations have commercial links with Trinidad
and Tobago, and more than 30 U.S. firms have
offices and operations in the country. Trinidad
and Tobago is a beneficiary of the U.S.
Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). The U.S.
embassy actively fosters bilateral business ties
and provides a number of commercial services to
potential investors and traders. A
double-taxation agreement has existed since the
early 1970s. A tax information exchange
agreement was signed in 1989, and a Bilateral
Investment Treaty (BIT) and an Intellectual
Property Rights agreement were signed in 1994.
The BIT entered into force in 1996. Other
agreements include Extradition and Mutual Legal
Assistance treaties, which have been in force
since 1999. An agreement on Maritime Cooperation
was signed in 1996.
There are large numbers of U.S. citizens and
permanent residents of Trinidadian origin living
in the United States (mostly in New York and
Florida), which keeps cultural ties strong.
About 20,000 U.S. citizens visit Trinidad and
Tobago on vacation or for business every year,
and more than 4,600 American citizens are
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Eugene P. Sweeney
Economic/Commercial Chief--A. David Miller
Political/INL Chief--Avraham Rabby
Consular Chief--Armando Armendariz
Management Officer--Cassie Ghee
Regional Security Officer--Thomas Dagon
Public Affairs Officer--Robert Skinner
U.S. Embassy is at 15 Queen's Park West,
Port of Spain (tel. 868 622-6371, fax: 868