Chamber still neutral on WTO accession; awaiting report on its impact
The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) remains neutral on the subject of The Bahamas’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the BCCEC’s lead on WTO matters Darron Pickstock told Guardian Business yesterday, adding that the BCCEC’s report on the effects the WTO will have on the Bahamian economy is expected to be handed over by global forecasting and quantitative analysis organization Oxford Economics next week.
Pickstock was part of the Bahamian contingent that went to Geneva, Switzerland last week for the Fourth Meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of The Bahamas to the WTO, and sat in with government officials as they met with Working Party officials.
Pickstock said he also had private meetings with WTO representatives to explain the private sector’s concerns with WTO accession.
“The government has already submitted offers that are quite conservative and it maintains the status quo,” he said.
“Also the main thrust of the fourth Working Party meeting was for WTO countries to continue to get clarification on how we do business in The Bahamas and the way the investment regime is set up in The Bahamas.
“They want certainty on our procedures and how we go about doing things in the country, whether it be business license, whether it’s when an investment is initially presented, and how that is assessed.”
Pickstock said WTO officials acknowledged that The Bahamas is improving as it moves forward with the implementation of “critical” legislation, though he added that they want to see more advancement in that area.
Minister of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette, who also attended the meetings, said recently that although the government believes accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be good for The Bahamas, the move will be a cautiously though-out process given the widespread concerns of Bahamians and the vulnerabilities and economic challenges of this archipelagic nation.
According to Pickstock, the majority of questions from the WTO panel came from the United States, which at the last meeting also had the majority of queries for The Bahamas based on its goods and services offer.
The BCCEC is awaiting receipt of its study from Oxford Economics in order to take an official position on WTO as a entity and private sector representative.
“We’re not experts in everything, and so we cannot make missteps which are costly for the country,” he said.
“We have to get this data, we have to rely on people who have done this, and look and review that information and then come up with our own assessment and determination. That’s why the chamber was deliberate not to come up with any position.”
Despite the data, Pickstock said the WTO will not be the solution to this country’s economic woes, and added that there needs be a holistic approach to increasing this country’s gross domestic product growth.
“We have to put our economy on the right track because we cannot continue the trend we are on,” he said.
Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism
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