assemble the cross-island pipeline in Moruga last week.
Zen Dionne Jarette
Friday last, when it was announced that Prime Minister Patrick
Manning was leaving T&T for a three-nation visit to Chile,
Peru and Venezuela, many people would have questioned his
motive for travelling overseas at a time when the nation was
being wracked by murder, kidnapping and other crime.
I immediately saw that the Prime Minister was embarking on
a crucial trip to the South American nations whose vote would
be important if T&T is to win the secretariat of the Free
Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
Whether FTAA ever gets off the ground is an issue dealt with
by Prof Anthony Bryan on Page 10 of this publication.
Despite the horrible crime wave this country is suffering,
I think there are some diplomatic forays that are best carried
out by the Prime Minister. Clearly, the final push for the
FTAA secretariat falls into this categoryand I say this
not knowing whether the PMs lobbying effort had been
previously programmed as part of T&Ts push for the
But, it seems to me that the reasons for the trip by Mr Manning,
who has stated his aversion to foreign travel on a number
of occasions, go beyond FTAA lobbying.
There was the small matter of affirming T&Ts (and
Caricoms) support for the Chilean candidate for secretary
general of Organisation of American States.
That support was clearly in return for Chiles support
of T&T as the location of the FTAA secretariat.
Thats the way 21 century diplomacy is doneyou
scratch my back, I scratch yours.
But there were also some strong commercial reasons for the
trip, not least of which was the offer by the Prime Minister
to sell T&Ts natural gas to energy-starved Chile.
Was it a coincidence that Mannings offer to sell natural
gas to Chile came on the very same day that the Chilean government
reported that gas supplies from neighbouring Argentina were
reduced to virtually zero?
One hardly thinks so.
Recall that the Chilean Foreign Minister visited T&T earlier
this month, obviously with the intention of firming up mutual
commitments and schedules.
But the fact that Mr Manning was on hand to make the offer
on the same day that the Argentinian natural gas pipeline
went dry, (figuratively speaking) certainly would have been
very well received by Chiles private sector.
As is now clear, before the Manning offer, Chile was facing
the prospect of having to rely on more expensive, environmentally
inferior fuel oil to operate its factories.
It seems to me, therefore, that Mr Manning has placed T&T
firmly on the map, and in the hearts, of Chiles private
sector which is among the most successful in the hemisphere.
What it also means is that when Vemcos Christian Mouttet,
RBTTs Lyndon Guiseppi, Republic Banks Gregory
Thompson or CL Financials Andre Louis Monteil will find
open doors in Santiago, Chiles capital, when they go
there looking to make deals. Even Sagicors David OBrien
may benefit, who knows.
If T&T begins to send natural gas to Chile, I would imagine
that there are many products that Chile produces that they
would like to sell us.
Trade missions to and from Chile would be on the cards as
would be a direct air link (but not BWIA, eh) between Chile
and T&T and the aforementioned direct investment by T&T
businessmen. Can a T&T diplomatic mission in Chile be
Could Foreign Minister Knowlson Gift have made such an offer
on behalf of the T&T Government and on behalf of Atlantic
LNG in which the T&T Government has only a 10 per cent
One thinks not.
And this is the point that I was making in the October 14,
2004 edition of this newspaper when I wrote a piece headlined,
Commercial diplomacy important, too.
As you would recall, my comment was in response to a letter
from Minister Gift in which I was accused of being misinformed
and reporting without checking the facts in a
manner that was erroneous.
All because I had argued that T&T was under-represented
at the inauguration of Dominican Republic President Hipolito
As I wrote seven months ago, I am in the camp of those
who believe that T&Ts diplomatic initiatives must
promote, among other things, the countrys commercial
I also suggested that commercial diplomacy mandates
that T&T should be seeking to advance its manufacturing,
banking and energy interests in the DR (read Chile) at this
Mr Manning, therefore, should be congratulated for the master-stroke
of commercial diplomacy that this trip represents.
The Chilean success also promotes Mr Mannings aim to
position T&T as the leader among Caribbean nations, and
himself as the de facto spokesman for Caricom.
Its all good.
In the euphoria following the grand South American tour, lets
not forget that there is the small issue of some commercial
agreements to be negotiated and signed between Atlantic LNG
and the Chilean purchaser.
There is the small issue of the distance between T&T and
Chile and whether the gas will go through the Panama canal.
And there is the always-thorny issue of the price of T&Ts
natural gas linked to Henry Hub or the result of some fiction,
like the deal with Jamaica.