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Unlikely Bahamas will meet June 2020 deadline on WTO accession

It is unlikely The Bahamas will meet its imposed deadline of June 2020 for accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the country’s chief negotiator for WTO accession Zhivargo Laing alluded to yesterday.

In fact, Laing said he firmly believes The Bahamas will not join the WTO before the next general election.

“Now let me just be honest, I frankly believe that the noise in the marketplace – it may not even be a majority of noises – could affect the government’s sentiments toward the WTO, and frankly I do not believe The Bahamas will make the next meeting of the WTO. I think The Bahamas will be in the discussion for many more years to come,” Laing said on his Guardian Radio talk show “Z Live” on Wednesday.

The Bahamas formally relaunched negotiations in regard to WTO accession last September at the third Meeting of the Working Party on the accession to the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Working Party met for a fourth time on April 5, at which time the country reported that, “On the margins of the Working Party meeting it has concluded one bilateral market access agreement and with other members there has been tangible progress.”

Nevertheless, The Bahamas joining the WTO remains a controversial subject matter that has split public opinion.

“I think if the government decides that you know what, maybe the citizenry needs more time to get on board, I don’t have a difficulty with that at all. That’s one of the reasons I say I suspect that we may be in the process for several more years if ever we do it,” Laing said.

Responding to questions about whether the resignation of former Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette – who led The Bahamas’ most recent delegation to the Working Party – will have an impact on The Bahamas moving forward with the WTO, Laing said the question implies that Symonette was the driving factor behind the move.

“These are government policies. This is the government of The Bahamas, the Ingraham administration first, then the Christie administration and then now the Minnis administration. So, the government has made that determination to move forward with this.”

The Bahamas’ Working Party was established on July 18, 2001 and led by Laing under the Ingraham administration.

Paige McCartney

Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas.
Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016.
Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News
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