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Poland, T&T mark 20 years of relations
Chargé d’affaires of the Polish Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, Milena Łukasiewicz, says her country sees T&T as a country to invest in.
When people think of T&T’s European ties, they think of western European countries like England, Spain and France; countries that colonised the Caribbean islands.
Few think about Poland, which is an Eastern European country, but its historical and contemporary ties with T&T are much stronger than people think.
In reply to Guardian Media questions, Łukasiewicz noted the historical and growing ties between the two countries.
On August 15, there was a book launch coinciding with 100 years of Polish independence and 20 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries at More Vino, Woodbrook. It was hosted by businessman David Lewis, who is Poland’s Consul in T&T.
Business with T&T
Łukasiewicz said T&T has a reputation internationally for being an important investment destination.
“With over 15 years of economic growth, T&T has earned the reputation of being an ideal country for foreign investment and one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean region,” Łukasiewicz explained.
“At the moment there is no bilateral economic agreement signed between Poland and T&T, but the inter-regional Cotonou Agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union is in force.”
She also gave statistics on trade between the two countries.
“According to data from the Ministry of Economy of Poland, the value of trade with T&T amounted to US$3, 264,513 in 2016. Polish exports to T&T reached US$3,144 315 that year, and the value of Polish imports from T&T amounted to US$120,988,” she revealed.
“The main export assortments were mechanical and electrical machines and devices (about 45 per cent of total exports), and products of the chemical industry. T&T imported from Poland food products, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, machines, mechanical and electrical equipment, medical devices and apparatus, tannins and pigments.”
She added that T&T has always been one of the main Caribbean markets for Polish exporters for years. Nevertheless, the share of the total value of exports and imports to and from T&T does not exceed 0.01 per cent of the total Polish export and import activity. Trade turnover in 2017 closed with the number US$5, 210 000. Export amounted to US$5,040,000 and import only US$170,000.
Speaking about how Poland can help a small developing economy like T&T, she pointed to a number of initiatives.
“Since 2007, Poland’s development aid towards the Americas has been allocated through the Small Grants Programme. T&T has benefited from the three branches of this programme: education, empowerment of civil society and climate change. Moreover, Poland supports T&T in international fora, including the push given by the EU to multilateral investments linked to the fight against climate change and the sustainable developments goals.”
She said a lot is also being done to strengthen diplomatic ties between the countries.
“Poland is represented in T&T by its Embassy in Caracas and by the presence in Port-of-Spain of the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland, David Lewis. In this two-fold way, we continuously enhance our political, economic, cultural and consular bilateral relations. Showing a wider perspective, a book has just been published about the history of Poles in the twin-island republic, Polish Legacies in Trinidad and Tobago, by Ian Senior. And to keep working in the mutual knowledge, the Embassy of Poland will select a Trinbagonian journalist to conduct a study trip in Poland in 2019.”
She also gave a historical overview of relations between the countries.
“As a curious fact, there was a time when Poland tried to establish a colony in Tobago. On the basis of the Union of Vilnius (November 28, 1561), Gotthard Kettler, the last Master of the Livonian Order, created the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia in the Baltics and became its first Duke. Some colonial territories for the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia were acquired by its third Duke and Gotthard’s grandson Jacob Kettler.
“The first colony founded by Jacob was the New Courland (Neu-Kurland) on the Caribbean island of Tobago. However, three initial attempts to establish a settlement (in 1637, 1639 and 1642) failed. The fourth was founded in 1654, but eventually in 1659 was taken over by a competing Dutch colony, also founded on the island in 1654,” she said.
Polish Legacies in Trinidad and Tobago is the new book which captures the historical ties between Poland and T&T.
The book was authored by retired school teacher Ian Senior.
Senior told Guardian Media on Monday it was not easy getting information on the relationship between the two countries.
“It took a lot of digging to get to what was Polish. But there were a few things of note that are in the book that was at the launch. It is difficult to find things related to Poland in T&T,” he admitted.
He referred to some of Poland’s influences in T&T, like the visit of Polish Pope John Paul II in 1985 and the fact that Poland wanted to set up a colony in Tobago.
He pointed out that before World War II there were Jews of Polish origin who came to T&T fleeing the war and tumultuous times of that era.
“Some of them made substantial inputs to T&T,” he said.
Poland is the eighth largest economy in the European Union.
According to the World Bank Group, it has reached high-income status over a relatively short period of time. Few middle-income countries have experienced such consistent broad-based growth, both fast and stable (on average 3.6 per cent over the past decade). This transition benefited from increases in productivity, strengthened institutions, human capital investments, and sound macroeconomic management.
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