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Chinese CNG for TT vehicles

Stories by Sasha Harrinanan in Beijing, China Wednesday, February 26 2014

THIS country’s multi-million dollar fuel subsidy could become a thing of the past, without motorists ever having to pay full price at the pump for gasoline or diesel. How? By TT partnering with China’s ENN Group of Companies to make compressed natural gas (CNG) readily available, at a very low price, at fuelling stations across the country.

This was proffered by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as she delivered the feature address yesterday at the China-TT Business and Investment Forum in Beijing, China.

More than 140 Chinese companies sent representatives to the event, which was hosted by InvesTT in collaboration with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT).

“An agreement was signed on Sunday between our National Gas Company and ENN for construction of CNG filling stations in TT. This agreement will have a major and positive impact on my country’s energy and transport industries by making CNG a more viable fuel option for our motoring public.

“This is very important to us, because my Government spends $4 billion; which I’m told is equivalent to your currency, the Yuan (¥), $4 billion per year in subsidising fuel. If we can (remove) that subsidy, not by giving people petrol at a higher price but by instead using cheaper-to-produce CNG, then I can save $4 billion which I can then put into hospitals, schools and roads,” Persad-Bissessar told the forum.

Noting that in China, the term “match-making” refers to forging of business relationships and agreements, Persad-Bissessar encouraged the Chinese and TT business delegations to use their “Match-making Meeting” yesterday afternoon to form partnerships in the energy sector and further.

Partnerships were also sought by the PM to increase the export of asphalt and bitumen, two items that are in high demand internationally.

“We have the asphalt in the ground but we do not seem to have enough capacity to extract it fast enough to meet demand. Again, we can partner to modernise the asphalt plant down in La Brea because many of the countries I travel to have asked to buy our asphalt yet we cannot sell. Not because we don’t have but because we are not taking it out of the ground fast enough,” Persad-Bissessar said.

The Chinese delegates listened intently as Persad-Bissessar outlined a similar investment opportunity regarding the production and sale of bitumen by State-owned energy company, Petrotrin.

“Many countries also want to buy bitumen from us but Petrotrin can’t make enough. It’s not because we do not have the resources. I think, respectfully, that the capacity to monetise needs improvement.”

Tourism was a third area in which the PM expressed a strong desire to see a Sino-TT partnership. Having previously spoken about wanting to partner with Chinese businesses to upgrade the Magdalena Grand Hotel in Tobago and build a new hotel along Trinidad’s north-west coast, Persad-Bissessar yesterday revealed the Hilton Trinidad in Port-of-Spain was also up for refurbishment/upgrade consideration by potential Chinese investors.

“In Tobago we have the Magdalena Grand already, so we can get that going very quickly should we find a partnership, a proper match. That’s the ‘sun, sand and sea’ aspect of our tourism product.

“In Trinidad, we have the Hilton, located in the heart of PoS; our capital city. We can ‘lift it’ and we can ‘rise’ together, with respect to business tourism in Trinidad.”

Should a potential investor be more inclined to build a new hotel, the TT Government “can offer the equity on the lands.”

Having made her pitch for future foreign direct investment (FDI) in TT, Persad-Bissessar made sure to inform the “China-TT Business Forum” attendees about four deals signed that morning between various Chinese companies and State enterprises/ministries in TT.

Persad-Bissessar also sought assistance yesterday on construction and design of six new Economic Zones in TT, development of a trans-shipment Port and Dry Dock in south Trinidad, early processing of a loan agreement with China Exim Bank so these projects can be expedited and construction of two new hospitals.

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