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Anti-WTO group: Accession will wipe out ‘all local manufacturing’ and ‘thousands of jobs’

Bahamians Against WTO (World Trade Organization) yesterday contended that The Bahamas’ accession to the international trading body will wipe out “all local manufacturing” and “thousands and thousands of jobs”.

Super Value owner, Rupert Roberts, who was part of Bahamians Against WTO’s press conference yesterday, said reduced protective tariffs on products produced locally will take away the competitive edge of local manufacturers and send them out of business.

Roberts said the protective tariff on his paper manufacturing business has already been reduced from 45 percent to 25 percent, and explained that with that reduction, he does not think his business can survive.

Roberts said he is not listening to the country’s chief negotiator for the WTO accession Zhivargo Laing when he asserts that manufacturers will continue to be protected.

“I’m not listening to Mr. Laing, I’m watching what he does,” said Roberts. “There is going to be a lot of backlash on this.” 

Bahamians Against WTO executive Paul Moss said he is convinced the WTO will cause local industries to “dissipate” once duty rates are reduced and competing products are allowed to come into The Bahamas. He added that he and his group think the government will increase VAT to compensate for the shortfall in customs duties, something the government has said will not happen.

“Once you remove it [tariff] they cannot compete,” Moss said. 

“We ask the government to come clean on the WTO and for those in Cabinet to say what benefits are there for us to join the WTO. We have a location that is paramount to our success and we have not yet exploited this.

“We urge the government not to put this country in this position where it will drag the economy down with it. We know that once customs duties are removed or reduced there will be increased taxes on the masses. We say that VAT will increase 25 to 30 percent, which will further destroy the working class poor.”

Roberts said no politician during the run-up to the general election touted the benefits of WTO, and he questioned why is there an urgency to join the organization now.

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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