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Bahamas officially relaunches WTO negotiations in Geneva

The Bahamas has officially relaunched its process for accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) at the Third Meeting of the Working Party in Geneva, Switzerland last week.

Minister of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette led The Bahamas’ delegation and gave the country’s commitment to the process of WTO accession, but advised: “While the government of The Bahamas is fully committed to concluding its accession to the WTO, we are equally committed to ensuring that the terms of accession fully consider The Bahamas’ vulnerabilities, sensitivities and economic development needs. Ultimately, WTO accession must be, and must be seen to be, beneficial to The Bahamas’ short, medium and long-term economic prospects.”

During the WTO meeting, member states reviewed and discussed The Bahamas’ trade regime and its trade offerings as outlined in documents submitted by the delegation.

According to the release, the Working Party will reconvene to continue negotiations in January of 2019.

At the meeting, Symonette explained to the WTO group that The Bahamas’ accession has taken so long because of numerous changes in the country’s political administrations and the severity of the global economic downturn in 2007/2008.

“It pulled the Bahamian economy, as it did most economies, into a deep recession and required undivided focus in response to the resulting economic crisis,” he said.

“As the economy emerged slowly out of that recession, the government redoubled its focus on strengthening the country’s medium and long-term economic growth and development prospects through a number of policy, legislative and institutional reforms.

“The reforms aimed broadly to improve the ease of doing business with a view to attracting new domestic and international investments, accelerating economic growth, expanding trade and broadening economic opportunities and prosperity for the Bahamian people.”

According to Symonette, the government has launched a study aimed at exploring tax reforms “that will further reduce this reliance on trade distorting measures toward more progressive, and trade supporting ones”.

“In addition to these strategic tax reforms, numerous legislative initiatives have been or are being undertaken to improve market access; protect intellectual property rights; promote competition; enhance consumer protection by the creation of a standards bureau and a modern sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regime; and improve transparency in the administration of the investment process,” Symonette said.

“These and other reforms are components of our national development strategy. The government considers WTO membership an integral part of that strategy.”

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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