The Bahamas has not leveraged the plethora of opportunities available through current trade agreements, Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis said yesterday, before he outlined the government’s “ambitious” plans to reduce the country’s trade deficit.
The most recent trade data showed a negative $1.8 billion difference between imports and exports in The Bahamas in 2020. Specifically, imports totaled $2.2 billion, while exports totaled $377.6 million.
“In this regard, a national trade policy has been developed with close collaboration from the International Trade Centre, focusing on four policy themes: managing imports, expanding exports, diversifying exports, and strengthening domestic competitiveness,” Halkitis said in the Senate yesterday.
“This policy has already been drafted and we will host the first national virtual consultation to discuss this policy on July 7th, 2022. Through this policy, we will have a clear idea of how the government will go about ensuring that more Bahamians are aware of opportunities, equipped with key skills and knowledge, and engaged in international trade.”
Halkitis said the Bahamas Trade Commission has been constituted and will focus on increasing public awareness of trade agreements and making recommendations to integrate trade agreements into everyday business activities. The commission is led by Chief Negotiator on Trade Philip Galanis.
“Currently, The Bahamas has not leveraged the plethora of opportunities currently available through existing agreements like the Caribbean Basin Initiative and the economic partnership agreements with the European Union and the United Kingdom. We believe that we are a long way from fully tapping into the rich potential for trade within the blue, green and orange economies,” he said.
“With respect to the orange economy, my ministry partnered with CEDA, the Caribbean Export Development Agency, to host a ‘Business of Music’ training and mentorship event for persons interested in taking advantage of export opportunities for music. There are plans to host another ‘Business of Music’ training event and to host a ‘Business of Fashion’ training event to provide persons who are interested in exporting with the tools to enter those markets.”
While the United States remains the country’s largest trading partner, successive administrations have sought to broaden the scope of regional and transatlantic trade with The Bahamas. In 2019, The Bahamas increased its level of imports from Turks and Caicos as well as Denmark.