The latest available country-specific data based on 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 1.4 million people, its total $6.7 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $4,800 for every resident in the Caribbean nation. That metric is down from $6,600 per person one year earlier.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Trinidadian/Tobagonian global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Trinidad and Tobago.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$3.4 billion (50.1% of total exports)
- Organic chemicals: $1.1 billion (16.2%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $842.1 million (12.5%)
- Iron, steel: $492.8 million (7.3%)
- Fertilizers: $378.2 million (5.6%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $53 million (0.8%)
- Machinery including computers: $50.7 million (0.8%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $44 million (0.7%)
- Fish: $33.5 million (0.5%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $33.2 million (0.5%)
Trinidad and Tobago’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, accounting for 94.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
There were 2 gainers from 2019 to 2020 among the top 10 export categories, specifically fish (up 16.7%) and miscellaneous food preparations (up 4.6%).
The leading decliner among Trinidad and Tobago’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers, thanks to its -85% setback year over year.
At the more detailed four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level, Trinidad and Tobago’s most valuable export product was petroleum gases at 34.5% of the global total. In second place were acyclic alcohols (15.1%) trailed by ammonia (12.4%), crude oil (12.3%), iron ore-reduced products (7%), nitrogenous fertilizers (5.6%) then refined petroleum oils (3.2%).
Overall, Trinidad and Tobago achieved an estimated $1.7 billion trade surplus for 2020. That amount of black ink reflects a -57.1% decline from the $4 billion surplus 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$2.7 billion (Down by -40.1% since 2019)
- Organic chemicals: $1.1 billion (Down by -34.6%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $817.6 million (Down by -24.2%)
- Iron, steel: $416.8 million (Down by -20.3%)
- Fertilizers: $374.1 million (Down by -14.5%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $17.4 million (Down by -62.2%)
- Fish: $7.5 million (Reversing a -$2.9 million deficit)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $4.9 million (Down by -41.9%)
- Tin: $1.9 million (Reversing a -$293,000 deficit)
- Lead: $14,000 (Reversing a -$205,000 deficit)
Trinidad and Tobago generated 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$757.9 million (Down by -11.4% since 2019)
- Vehicles: -$286.8 million (Down by -27.9%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$237.4 million (Up by 43.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$233 million (Down by -27%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$171.3 million (Down by -49.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$151.6 million (Down by -1.6%)
- Ships, boats: -$146.8 million (Up by 17.8%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$143.6 million (Up by 7.2%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$104.3 million (Down by -3.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$99.6 million (Up by 59.5%)
Trinidad and Tobago incurred 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)
In macroeconomic terms, Trinidad and Tobago’s total exported goods represent 19.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($35 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 19.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 20.3% for 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Trinidad and Tobago’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Trinidad and Tobago’s forecast unemployment rate was 5.8% at January 2021, up from 4.4% in July 2019 according to Trading Economics.
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
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on June 30, 2021
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 30, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 30, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 30, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 30, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Trinidad and Tobago. Accessed on June 30, 2021