Beckles: Chamber promoting trade regardless of WTO accession
Ahead of the release of its report by global forecasting firm Oxford Economics, analyzing the impact of The Bahamas’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Beckles said yesterday the results of that accession have little bearing on this jurisdiction’s ability to capitalize on underutilized trade markets.
“Whether we join WTO or not we still can trade. What we want Bahamians to understand is trading is a natural part of the economy and we need Bahamians to get involved. That being said, if we join WTO or don’t join WTO, we still have lobster and conch and fish to export; we still have thousands of acres of arable land that we can use for agricultural growth and export, we still have goods and services that we can trade and export,” Beckles said in an interview with Guardian Business.
“So, whether we do it for WTO or not, Bahamians need to understand and appreciate that these trade opportunities are there. And if we’re going to talk about how we strengthen the economy, we do that by getting Bahamians involved in larger economies, so that we can do better.”
Beckles stressed that there are tremendous avenues for trade in The Bahamas.
“If the country is going to join the WTO the truth is we would have already been in the trading mindset, and I think that’s important for us to understand. We always ask this question, what do we have to trade? Well we have a lot to trade,” he said.
The CEO’s comments come as the chamber embarked on the first of several trade missions planned this year to expose the Bahamian business community to international business opportunities in Panama, Florida, Cuba and China.
The first mission to Panama embarked March 27.
“Our goal at the chamber is to broaden the economic base for Bahamians to participate, and one of the ways to do that is to put together trade missions to various manufacturers and exporting divisions – countries like Panama, Miami, Havana, China. We’ve gotten requests from places like Trinidad and Tobago and we’ve gotten requests from as far away as Ireland. And so, what we’ve done is to align the needs of the Bahamian business community with those jurisdictions that will offer the best partnership value for imports and exports for Bahamians,” Beckles said.
“If we look at the whole issue of trade in general we have not been ‘pro-trade’ as a people or as a private sector. The reality of it is while The Bahamas has been actively involved in the trading sector for many decades, the average business in The Bahamas doesn’t see trading outside its typical consumer component.
“What we’re aiming to do is to first provide a basis for Bahamian businesses to know that trade opportunities exist well beyond the typical running to Miami or New York, and that many more opportunities are available. We want to make sure that Bahamians get to see that there are new opportunities, new businesses, new sectors.”
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