Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, The Bahamas hit the lowest point in the value of exported goods and services to the United Kingdom, it was revealed yesterday.
Total trade between the UK and The Bahamas in 2019 (the latest complete data) was £347 million, with the UK exports accounting for the larger share at £251 million.
“And this is heavily dominated by services exports – particularly in the financial and legal sectors and, of course, that is an important part of the business ecosystem in The Bahamas for those sectors as well; we should see those as mutually supportive. I think one theme of this is to emphasize the value of imports into The Bahamas to support even the production of goods or the provision of services there too,” Regional Trade Advisor at the British High Commission Dan Hart said during a webinar on exporting and importing goods and services between the UK and The Bahamas.
“I should also note for full transparency that sadly Bahamian exports to the UK have been decreasing in recent years, at least on the good side. So in 2019 we saw this sort of low point of a six-year downward trend. That is a trend that predates Brexit, before anyone jumps to that conclusion. Of course, that is the trend that we are very keen to reverse and that’s why this conversation about the EPA and opportunities for trade between the UK and The Bahamas is so important.”
The virtual event was hosted by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC), the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration and the British High Commission in Nassau yesterday.
The purpose of the webinar was to highlight the benefits of the UK-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which was ratified last year.
Under the EPA, the UK commits to providing immediate duty-free, quota-free access to goods exported from the CARIFORUM states and in exchange, the CARIFORUM states commit to gradual tariff liberalization.
Most of the trade between the UK and CARIFORUM occurs in services, with CARIFORUM exporting around £1 billion worth of services to the UK.
The majority of Bahamian exports to the UK are in services. Hart pointed out, however, that the top three goods The Bahamas currently exports to the UK are polystyrene, plywood and furniture.
“Under the EPA, Bahamian exporters get duty-free access to the UK market on all goods except arms and ammunition,” he said.
“The pool of existing exports is very small, a total of £5 million worth of goods and this is the trend that we want to reverse. This should be larger.”
One way of building on trade through the EPA, Hart said, is by building on existing practices and exports of existing products.
“Data from the International Trade Center shows the well-established Bahamian products which present opportunities in further growth in UK exports include art and paintings, cruise ship parts, organic chemicals and any significant supply capacity on lobster and other sea fish, including the possibility of freezing them for long-haul exports,” he said.
Products The Bahamas does not yet export competitively, which it could do feasibly based on the existing export baskets matched against UK demand include cocoa beans, vanilla, meat products including sheep and certain fruit, including bananas and pineapples.