Thursday, Dec 12, 2019
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Light manufacturers concerned about impact of WTO accession

The Bahamas Light Industries Development Council (BLIDC) is demanding complete transparency from government when tariff rates are submitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for review and ratification, as BLIDC members are concerned WTO accession could mean infiltration by international manufacturers.

The BLIDC explained in a press release that, even after the Ministry of Finance’s WTO private sector consultation meetings dealing specifically with what WTO accession would mean for each sector of the business community, there remain “substantial concerns for all industries”.

The council, whose primary mandate is the advancement and protection of the light industries sector in The Bahamas, said it has “unique concerns” about tariffs and what the government might offer to WTO members.

“Many of our members rely on protective tariffs on the products we produce in order to remain competitive locally,” the release pointed out.

“The protective tariffs are critical to our ability to remain active in the business community and continue employing Bahamians. In light of this, it is of utmost importance that the government take note of the protective tariff rates that have been requested. Further we ask that, in transparency, the government share the rates that are eventually submitted to the WTO for negotiation.”

According to the BLIDC, the light manufacturing sector employs about 3,800 Bahamians. Those in the sector fear those jobs could be under threat if government is forced to open up the sector to foreign direct investment.

“The viability of manufacturing directly correlates with being able to operate on a level playing field, which is currently compromised by high electricity rates, costly labor and limited production scale,” the council noted.

“Consequently, in the current environment, protective tariffs on the products we produce is the primary mechanism enabling manufacturers to remain competitive. Irreparable damage will likely be done to the sector if these tariffs are not maintained.

“One of the benefits being advanced regarding WTO accession is the encouragement of foreign direct investment, however such goals should not come at the detriment to existing Bahamian businesses. If local interests are not safeguarded, negative effects could completely negate the positive effects noted from accession.”

Government hopes to fully accede to the WTO by the end of 2019. This country is the last in the region to join the organization and one of the last countries in the world.

 

Chester Robards

Senior Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian.
Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism
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