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.
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).
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.