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Bahamas Making More Progress Toward WTO Accession

The Bahamas’ accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will depend partially on its ability to ensure that the country is putting in place the necessary regulatory infrastructure to maintain appropriate protections related to food safety and animal and plant health.

Meeting this obligation requires that The Bahamas adhere to the WTO’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and to aid in getting the country moving toward that direction, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is hosting Bahamian decision-makers to a four-day training session.

Addressing delegates who hail mainly from the agriculture industry during the opening session Tuesday, US Chargé d’Affaires John Dinkelman said that while The Bahamas has made considerable progress since beginning its accession to the WTO nearly a decade ago, there is still a significant amount of work that has to be done.

“The SPS Agreement lays out principles and objections related to food safety and animal and plant health,” he said. “The objective of this training is to promote in-depth understanding of the Notification Authority and Enquiry Point functions, and to help facilitate the development of the management systems needed to efficiently perform these regulatory functions.”

Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder also addressed the opening session Tuesday where he told delegates that the establishment of an enquiry point will move The Bahamas one step closer to becoming a WTO member.

Mr. Pinder has been aggressively pushing for The Bahamas’ accession to the WTO since assuming his ministerial post last May.

He said that beyond market accessibility, The Bahamas stands to benefit tremendously from a WTO membership.

“I see the potential for agriculture to become a significant component of our sector, not just in the context of food security, but also as an industry of international trade, yet I recognise the constraints of the sector in accessing these global markets,” said Mr. Pinder.

“The Ministry of Financial Services is earnestly seeking any technical assistance available to the government and private sector so that we may reap the most benefits as possible, provide the necessary training for the further development of the agricultural industry, and identify additional expansion opportunities.”

The minister also noted that the government is looking to create a Standards Bureau to assist with ensuring quality standards that protect both consumers and premium domestic producers.

Mr. Pinder referenced the Abaco Big Bird Farm where he said the operators produce premium chicken product but because of a lack of objective standards, there is no certification to differentiate their product from potentially “inferior imported product.”

“A Standards Bureau and measurement of quality will allow premium domestic producers such as Abaco Big Bird to better compete in an open market place,” he said. “The same can be said with domestic egg producers who I have also personally met with in my industry tours.

“They ask for the same protection, Bahamian producers with utmost confidence in the quality of their product seeking an even playing field to compete.”

The government recently secured a $30,000 trade sector support loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for capacity building in the areas of plant and animal health

Mr. Pinder says the activities covered by the trade loan will be underway shortly and will play an important role in ensuring that products exported from The Bahamas become synonymous with quality products.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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