Imbert: US lobbyist seeking opportunities for Govt

Monday, April 8, 2019 - 04:45

The Group DC LLC, the US lob­by­ist firm, which un­der­took sev­er­al trade and in­vest­ment pro­mo­tion ini­tia­tives for the T&T Gov­ern­ment last year, iden­ti­fied op­por­tu­ni­ties and strate­gies to en­gage multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions to po­ten­tial­ly in­crease com­mer­cial ship­ping and dry­dock con­struc­tion here.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert out­lined the work the firm did in 2018 in re­sponse to ques­tions from Na­pari­ma MP Rod­ney Charles in Par­lia­ment on Fri­day.

The firm has been a source of Op­po­si­tion queries since it was hired by Gov­ern­ment in 2016 for $14.7 mil­lion to pro­vide lob­by­ing ser­vices. It was re­port­ed that the agree­ment was for two years at a rate of US $1.2 mil­lion an­nu­al­ly. Quar­ter­ly in­stal­ments were to be paid.

Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley, who de­fend­ed the hir­ing of the firm, had said the de­ci­sion was tak­en in 2015 and he knew own­er Arthur “Art” Collins very well. He said the firm was cho­sen since “we know them and are sat­is­fied they can do the job.”

The Group’s six-pronged scope of works—to lob­by for T&T on en­er­gy, se­cu­ri­ty, trade, fi­nance and oth­er is­sues—al­so in­clud­ed col­lab­o­rat­ing with Gov­ern­ment on “ad­dress­ing the chal­lenge of ISIS re­cruit­ment of Trinidad and To­ba­go cit­i­zens.”

Re­ply­ing to Charles in Par­lia­ment, Im­bert de­tailed the firm’s work in 2018:

• In­creased T&T’s vis­i­bil­i­ty by work­ing di­rect­ly with lead­ers of the US Sen­ate and Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tees plus Sen­a­tors and Con­gress­men rep­re­sent­ing ar­eas that con­sti­tute im­por­tant mat­ters and oth­er in­ter­ests for T&T.

• Mon­i­tored leg­isla­tive is­sues af­fect­ing T&T in the US Con­gress.

• Con­duct­ed re­search and for­mu­lat­ed pro­posed eco­nom­ic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion strat­e­gy that would es­tab­lish T&T as a cor­po­rate out­sourc­ing ju­ris­dic­tion.

• En­gaged Cit­i­Group to dis­cuss with Gov­ern­ment the pos­si­bil­i­ty of es­tab­lish­ing a fi­nan­cial hub lo­cal­ly, spe­cif­ic op­tions for di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion and ad­di­tion­al risk mit­i­ga­tion ini­tia­tives that would sup­port this.

• Pro­mot­ed T&T eco­nom­ic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion ef­forts re­lat­ed to pro­posed ex­pan­sion of gam­ing in a reg­u­lat­ed/taxed en­vi­ron­ment.

• Fa­cil­i­tat­ed dis­cus­sions be­tween Gov­ern­ment’s Am­bas­sador to the US with US Mem­bers of Con­gress on T&T’s eco­nom­ic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion ef­forts to in­crease US for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment here.

• Held dis­cus­sions with se­nior staff of the US For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee on var­i­ous is­sues of con­cern to T&T, in­clud­ing the de-risk­ing phe­nom­e­non in the Caribbean and Latin Amer­i­ca and eco­nom­ic and na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty chal­lenges posed by the lack of cor­re­spon­dent bank­ing re­la­tion­ships in the re­gion, plus es­tab­lish­ment of Trinidad and To­ba­go as a re­gion­al bank­ing hub.

• Dis­cus­sions on US-TT eco­nom­ic re­la­tion­ships and na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty part­ner­ships; the Caribbean Basin Ini­tia­tive and Caribbean Basin Se­cu­ri­ty Ini­tia­tive.

• Dis­cussed pro­posed en­gage­ment strat­e­gy be­tween the US Com­merce Sec­re­tary and T&T’s Am­bas­sador, to en­hance bi­lat­er­al trade, in­vest­ment and eco­nom­ic op­por­tu­ni­ties be­tween the US and T&T

• Par­tic­i­pat­ed in dis­cus­sions with se­nior Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials on se­cur­ing De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­ri­ty (DHS) air­port pre-clear­ance des­ig­na­tion for the Pi­ar­co In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port and met with House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Home­land Se­cu­ri­ty staff on the air­port pre-clear­ance pro­gramme.

• Col­lab­o­rat­ed with T&T’s Em­bassy on spe­cial projects such as T&T Di­as­po­ra En­gage­ment events; and eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives to stim­u­late trade/ in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in the US for T&T’s man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor (through strength­ened sup­ply chain), fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor and en­er­gy sec­tor.

• For­mu­lat­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­e­gy with the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice around es­tab­lish­ing spot­light on T&T’s en­er­gy sec­tor to help achieve more favourable en­er­gy sec­tor agree­ments.

• Se­cured ad­di­tion­al in­ter­est by US of­fi­cials in par­tic­i­pat­ing in of­fi­cial trav­el to T&T.

• Dis­cussed strate­gies for en­gage­ment in fu­ture events of the Con­gres­sion­al Black Cau­cus An­nu­al Leg­isla­tive Con­fer­ence to ex­pose the Con­fer­ence at­ten­dees and the broad­er US pub­lic to T&T’s di­verse cit­i­zen­ry.

Charles said Im­bert had on­ly out­lined ini­tia­tives and he want­ed him to give tan­gi­bles. Im­bert replied: “I just did...”

Charles per­sist­ed, ask­ing whether the firm did enough to im­prove TT-US re­la­tions, con­sid­er­ing the US re­cent­ly crit­i­cised T&T. Im­bert said T&T had ex­cel­lent US re­la­tions. UNC MP Bar­ry Padarath al­so asked why Gov­ern­ment had to have a US lob­by­ist to talk with the TT di­as­po­ra in the US. The House Speak­er did not al­low that ques­tion.

- by Gail Alexander