Transparency of the Regulatory System
Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. Post is not aware of any 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 process for development of regulations involves the establishment of a committee comprised of stakeholders from public sector agencies, private sector firms and civil society. The committee is responsible for developing proposed regulations and may sometimes use independent studies as the basis for proposals.
Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms. IFRS standards are required for domestic public companies. Proposed laws and regulations are often published in draft form for public comment, though there is no legal obligation to do so. The government solicits private sector and business community comments on proposed legislation.
Draft bills and regulations are often made public via a unified website managed by the government or printed in an official gazette or journal. The content is usually the actual draft text which is also published in daily press, e.g., in newspaper advertisements. Please find additional information at www.news.gov.tt/content/e-gazette# , www.ric.org.tt , and www.ttparliament.org .
The Embassy of TT is not aware of oversight or enforcement mechanism that ensure the government follows administrative processes. Online locations where key regulatory actions or summaries are published on www.legalaffairs.gov.tt/ and www.laws.gov.tt .
No regulatory systems including enforcement reforms have been adopted since the last report. Regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years have not been fully implemented.
Generally, regulatory reforms are linked to making systems easier and more transparent while ensuring accountability.
Regulations are generally developed by a ministry-led committee tasked with oversight of the process. The committee will include various stakeholders. Post is not aware of regulatory enforcement mechanisms. The enforcement process is not legally reviewable or otherwise made accountable to the public. Ministries and regulatory agencies do not conduct impact assessment of proposed regulations nor is impact of existing regulations regularly assessed. Public finances and debt obligations are publicly available on the Central Bank website.
International Regulatory Considerations
Trinidad and Tobago is not part of a regional economic block. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are consistent with international norms. Proposed laws and regulations are often published in draft form for public comment, though there is no legal obligation to do so. The government solicits private sector and business community comments on proposed legislation.
The Government notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory to the Trade Facilitation Agreement since 2015.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
TT’s legal system is based on English Common law. Contracts can be legally enforced through the court system, which is deemed to be backlogged. TT has a parliamentary democracy modeled on the English system.
There are few specialized courts, making the resolution of legal claims time consuming, according to several companies. An Industrial Court exclusively handles cases relating to labor practices but also suffers from severe backlogs. Civil cases of less than USD2,250 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, competent, and procedurally and substantively fair. Regulations and enforcement actions are appealable. Decisions may be appealed to the TT Court of Appeal. 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.
No major laws or regulations have come out in the past year related to foreign investment or commerce. The major laws and regulations, and judicial decisions affecting incoming foreign investment, are the following:
- Foreign Investment Act
- Occupational Safety and Health Act
- Minimum Wage Act
- Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act
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 are: http://www.legalaffairs.gov.tt , https://www.rgd.legalaffairs.gov.tt , and http://www.tradeind.gov.tt
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The Intellectual Property Act of 2000 covers unfair competition, misleading the public, discrediting another’s enterprise and activities, and disclosure of secret information. The Act identifies which agencies review transactions for competition-related concerns. Enforcement of the law is a concern as the procedure for reviewing competition related concerns is lengthy.
The Fair Trading Commission, established in 2014, has the responsibility for promoting and maintaining fair competition in the domestic market. It investigates the various forms of anti-competitive business conduct set out in the Fair Trading Act.
There were no significant competition cases over the past year.
Expropriation and Compensation
The government can legally expropriate property based on the internal needs of the country and only after due process including adequate compensation, generally based on market value. Various pieces of TT legislation make provisions for compulsory licensing in the interest of public health or intellectual property rights. This would allow for the legal expropriation of products based on non-compliance with licensing requirements.
The Embassy 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. There is no indication of policy shifts that might lead to the implementation of expropriations in the near future. Claimants did not allege a lack of due process in prior expropriation cases.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
TT is a party to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention). TT has ratified the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York convention).
Local courts recognize and can enforce foreign arbitral awards according to chapter 20 of the Arbitration (Foreign Arbitral Awards) Act 1996. The 1958 New York convention allows the enforcement of arbitral awards in international arbitration proceedings. TT’s Judgments Extension Act Chap 5:02 grants the reciprocal enforcement in TT of Judgments of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. It provides a system of registration to facilitate the direct enforcement of money judgments. A foreign judgment that emanates from a jurisdiction which does not fall within the schedule of countries listed in the Judgments Extension Act will be enforceable in Trinidad and Tobago once the following criteria are satisfied:
- The courts of Trinidad & Tobago recognize the jurisdictional competence of the foreign Court;
- The foreign judgment is for a definite sum of money;
- The foreign judgment is final and conclusive; and
- There is no defense to the recognition of the foreign judgment
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The bilateral investment treaty between the United States and TT allows for alternative dispute resolution measures, including binding arbitration. Investment disputes are not common in TT. The U.S. Embassy of TT is not aware of any claims by U.S. investors under the agreement.
Post is only aware of one investment dispute involving a U.S. company in the past ten years. Trinidad and Tobago follows English common law, widely considered efficient in response to foreign arbitral awards. Post is not aware of any investment disputes that have been tried in TT courts. There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
The bilateral investment treaty between the United States and TT allows for alternative dispute resolution measures, including binding arbitration. There is a domestic dispute resolution center that offers arbitration services. The Embassy is not aware of any instances where local courts were required to enforce foreign arbitration awards.
The Embassy is aware of only one investment dispute involving SOEs that occurred in 2001. Investors have reported that lack of court automation, delays in case management and a lack of capacity cause tremendous backlogs. Dispute resolution for investment/commercial issues takes approximately 1,340 days (3.6 years), according to the World Bank. This includes filing, trial, judgment, and enforcement. Alternative dispute resolution is often a preferred route because of shorter timeframes.
The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act of 2006 was proclaimed in 2014. A dramatic improvement, it introduced a formal mechanism for rehabilitation, established a public office responsible for the general administration of insolvency proceedings, and clarified the rules on appointment of trustees.
In 2018, the World Bank ranked TT at 77 of 190 countries for resolving insolvency in its Ease of Doing Business Index. This reflects TT’s recovery rate (cents on the dollar) which is worse than the regional average, and cost as a percentage of estate.
In terms of the insolvency framework index, TT is ranked well above the regional average, almost on par with OECD high income countries. Bankruptcy is not criminalized in TT.