T&T is a stable democratic nation with general elections held at least every five years. All changes of Government have occurred through free and fair election and orderly and peaceful transitions of power are routine.
The country gained political independence from Britain in 1962 and became a Republic in 1976, while remaining a member of the British Commonwealth. T&T follows the Westminster model of government, with a bicameral parliamentary system. The Parliament, which exercises legislative power, consists of the House of Representatives with 41 elected members and the Senate, which is the Upper House, with 31 members appointed by the President: 16 on the advice of the Prime Minister, six on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, and nine Independents. Executive power lies with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet which is appointed from among members of Parliament. Tobago has an elected House of Assembly which controls some of that island’s internal affairs. The Judiciary is independent of the other organs of government.
T&T has a traditional common-law system similar to that of the UK. It is based on the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, statutes enacted by the Parliament of T&T and the application of English common law principles.
The Constitution of T&T provides entrenched protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms which are guaranteed equally to foreign investors and nationals. It also guarantees the independence of the judiciary. The legal system is characterised by adherence to the rule of law and the principles of natural justice. It upholds the sanctity of contracts and generally provides a level playing field for foreign investors involved in court matters.
Unless compromised, almost all commercial disputes are heard and determined by the Supreme Court. There is a three-tier system: In the High Court, all civil (non-criminal) trials are determined by a single judge without a jury. From the High Court, a party can appeal as of right to the Court of Appeal, which sits with three judges. The Privy Council remains the final Court of Appeal for T&T. Appeals from the local Court of Appeal are made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the UK.
Trade disputes among parties subscribing to the Rules of the Caribbean Market and Economy can also be brought before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its original jurisdiction.