A Caribbean twin island country located off South America’s northern coast, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago shipped an estimated US$11.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 12.3% increase since 2014 and a 5.7% gain from 2017 to 2018.
The latest available country-specific data from 2015 shows that 76.2% of products exported from Trinidad and Tobago were bought by importers in: United States of America (41.7% of the global total), Argentina (6.8%), Colombia (4.1%), Peru (3.9%), Chile (3.6%), Spain (3%), Jamaica (2.9%), Brazil (2.3%), France (2.2%), Guyana (2%), United Kingdom (1.9%) and Norway (1.8%).
Given Trinidad and Tobago’s population of 1.2 million people, its total $11.2 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $9,100 for every resident in the Caribbean nation.
In macroeconomic terms, Trinidad and Tobago’s total exported goods represent 24.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($44.4 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 24.9% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 24.8% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Trinidad and Tobago’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Trinidad and Tobago also provided $1.2 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 2.6% of GDP in PPP. These metrics include a significant amount of re-exporting activity.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Trinidad and Tobago’s unemployment rate was 5.4% at July 2018 up from 5.1% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Trinidadian/Tobagonian global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Trinidad and Tobago.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$5.8 billion (53% of total exports)
- Organic chemicals: $1.9 billion (17.4%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $1.3 billion (12%)
- Iron, steel: $643.2 million (5.8%)
- Fertilizers: $352.1 million (3.2%)
- Machinery including computers: $145.3 million (1.3%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $61.2 million (0.6%)
- Other chemical goods: $49.9 million (0.5%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $29.1 million (0.3%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $28.8 million (0.3%)
Trinidad and Tobago’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, accounting for 94.2% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Miscellaneous chemical goods represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 69.2% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was the machinery including computers category thanks to its 42.3% increase.
Trinidad and Tobago ‘s shipments of organic chemicals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 33.2%.
The leading decliner among Trinidad and Tobago’s top 10 export categories was the cereal or milk preparations via a -60.2% slowdown year over year.
Overall Trinidad and Tobago achieved a $5.5 billion trade surplus for 2018, up by 46.8% from $3.7 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Trinidadian/Tobagonian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$4.7 billion (Up by 18.2% since 2017)
- Organic chemicals: $1.9 billion (Up by 33.3%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $1.3 billion (Up by 7.6%)
- Iron, steel: $520.1 million (Up by 15.9%)
- Fertilizers: $348.5 million (Down by -3.3%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $14.4 million (Up by 99.9%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $14.1 million (Down by -44.9%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $1.6 million (Up by 758.8%)
- Other base metals: $260,000 (Reversing a -$298,000 deficit)
- Silk: -$3,000 (Reversing a -$3,000 deficit)
Trinidad and Tobago has highly positive net exports in the international trade of petroleum gases and refined petroleum oils. In turn, these cashflows indicate Trinidad and Tobago’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil product category.
Below are exports from Trinidad and Tobago that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Trinidad and Tobago’s goods trail Trinidadian/Tobagonian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$624.7 million (Down by -16.5% since 2017)
- Vehicles: -$360.4 million (Down by -11.5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$272 million (Down by -30%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$216.4 million (Down by -8.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$173.7 million (Up by 16%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$157.3 million (Up by 9.8%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$126.7 million (Up by 27.4%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$105.1 million (Down by -1.1%)
- Meat: -$82.1 million (Down by -3.8%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$80.7 million (Down by -17.4%)
Trinidad and Tobago has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category.
Trinidadian/Tobagonian Export Companies
Not one Trinidadian/Tobagonian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Trinidad and Tobago. Selected examples are shown below:
- Atlantic LNG (natural gas)
- Atlas Engineering Limited (construction materials)
- Bermudez Biscuit Company (confectionary foods)
- Carib Brewery (alcoholic beverages)
- Flavorite Ice Cream (dairy products)
- Kiss Baking Company Limited (baked goods)
- National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago (natural gas)
- Petrotrin (oil, gas)
- S. M. Jaleel and Company (beverages)
- Solo Beverage Company (soft drinks)
Trinidad and Tobago’s capital city is Port-of-Spain, which also serves as the nation’s largest cargo port.
See also Exported Paintings and Drawings by Country, Chile’s Top 10 Exports and Capital Facts for Port-of-Spain
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 26, 2018
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 8, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 26, 2018
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on June 26, 2018
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on June 26, 2018
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Trinidad and Tobago. Accessed on June 26, 2018