Trinidad and Tobago - Country Commercial Guide
Distribution & Sales Channels

Discusses distribution network from how products enter to final destination, including reliability of distribution systems, distribution centers, ports, etc.

Last published date: 2022-08-18

TT’s distribution and sales channels are well established, ranging from independent trading companies to wholly owned subsidiaries of international manufacturers.  Consumer goods are generally imported by stocking wholesalers/distributors who resell to retailers, although larger retailers often import directly.  As a regional hub for the southern Caribbean, many local distributors have valuable regional contacts and knowledge of regional distribution rules and regulations. Increasing international eCommerce is also producing interest in establishing local fulfillment options.  Most goods arrive through two container terminals at Port of Spain and Point Lisas.  Road infrastructure is generally good, and shipping is mostly reliable though port delays occur frequently.  Inter-island shipping between the island of Trinidad and the island of Tobago can be unreliable.

Using an Agent or Distributor

TT has no legislation mandating the use of representatives, distributors, or agents, but their use is highly recommended.  Contractual agreements for the appointment of agents are governed by common law principles; the parties are free to form their own contractual terms. 

U.S. exporters seeking suitable agents and distributors are advised to contact the nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) local office at for guidance.  The Department of Commerce offers fee-based services that can assist exporters in identifying agents or distributors.  Additional information can also be obtained on the U.S. Commercial Service website.

Establishing an Office

The average time required to form a company is 3-4 days and involves completing and submitting a series of forms to the Ministry of the Attorney General & Legal Affairs, and the Ministry of Finance.  The approximate cost for these procedures is $600.

The steps involved include applying to reserve a business name; registration with the companies registry, creating a company seal, registering with the tax authority, applying for registration as employer, and applying for registration of employees.  A local attorney is helpful and recommended for this process.  The commercial unit at Embassy Port of Spain can provide a list of local law firms.

Work permits are required for U.S. employees to legally conduct work-related activities in TT for more than 30 days.  The work permit requires a minimum of 2.5 weeks for processing through the Ministry of National Security with a one-time application fee of $100 as well as a monthly certificate fee of $85.

Resources

For the latest Investment Climate Statement (ICS) which includes information on investment and business environments in foreign economies pertinent to establishing and operating an office and to hiring employees, visit the U.S. Department of Department of State’s Investment Climate Statements website.

Franchising

Local and international franchises are ubiquitous in TT, with foreign investors free to negotiate representation, agency, distribution, and franchising agreements with TT nationals.  Royalties and commission rates are not regulated.

Direct Marketing

While little direct marketing occurs in TT, there is no legislation that prohibits it.  Radio, television and newspaper advertising, flyer inserts, and store catalogs are widely used.  Network marketing has been successful in the past. Email and social media advertising, particularly on Facebook, are increasingly popular.  Legislation that impacts the direct marketing sector includes:

  • The Data Protection Act
  • The Electronic Transactions Act
  • The Consumer Protection and Safety Act
  • Joint Ventures/Licensing

The GoTT encourages joint ventures between foreign and local corporations, and these are generally governed by a joint-venture partnership agreement with no ownership or control restrictions in place.  U.S. companies sometimes find it helpful to establish such a relationship to gain ready access to an established network of contacts and obtain information and action on the tendering procedures for government contracts.

Express Delivery

International couriers like FedEx, DHL, and UPS provide express delivery services domestically and to/from the United States.  These services are generally reliable.  TT is four hours away from Miami, five and a half hours from Houston, and five hours from New York by air.  Several local companies have increased their operations within the express delivery space during the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate online purchases while border restrictions inhibited travel.  There are not de minimis amounts and customs generally can quickly clear goods sent through express couriers.  There are also several local express delivery firms operational in TT.

Due Diligence

Conducting due diligence (https://www.trade.gov/perform-due-diligence) on international business partners and agents is important to minimize risks.  Local credit agency companies provide a full range of reporting services.  The U.S. Commercial Service offers an International Company Profile (ICP) service to assist with the due diligence process.  Companies seek ICPs for several reasons, including to confirm that the business is what it appears to be, to avoid a bad business transaction, to gain information that will be useful for valuing assets, and to define representations and warranties and/or negotiating price concessions.  Information on accessing the ICP is available through the nearest U.S. Export Assistant Center.