Categorized | National News

WTO Consultations Launched

The government is looking at ascension to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2019 to advance that process, it is looking for input and opinion on what to trade and how to trade.


There are both opportunities and challenges to The Bahamas becoming a member of the Organization. According to Financial Services Minister Brent Symonette these include developing a new fiscal regime that makes The Bahamas less dependent on customs duties.


The first two Ingraham administrations had started to reduce the number of categories for customs duties to about 39, and as the Minnis government prepares the 2018/2019 budget, there is said to be ongoing consultancy on the impact of reducing Custom duties and how it impacts other taxes, Mr. Symonette revealed yesterday.


“There is the whole question of vulnerability of the economy if we switch from a Customs based to a WTO compliant regime,” Mr. Symonette said.


There is also an associated cost and challenges that come along with complying with the WTO, Mr. Symonette told consultants gathered at the launch of the first round of WTO consultations.


“There is the need to develop a new fiscal regime, as we become less and less dependent on customs duty for raising government revenue; the cost of compliance, as we improve our legislation, regulations, policies, practices and procedures to conform with international standards of operation; and the need for some sectors of the economy to make adjustments to a more liberal investment environment,” Mr. Symonette said.


The Bahamas obtained observer status to get acquainted with the WTO and its workings back in 2000, a year later, it applied for full membership. In 2017, it resumed its membership application, according to Mr. Symonette.


“Against this backdrop, the Government is pursuing membership in the WTO. We do so fully aware that this represents a paradigm shift for international trade in The Bahamas.

“We are fully aware of the opportunities and challenges that membership in the WTO poses, but believe that, based on our research and best guidance that this is in our medium and long term interest.

Mr. Symonette stated that successful participation in the WTO will help The Bahamas in several ways.

“We believe participation in the WTO will accelerate growth and development of the Bahamian economy through increased strategic domestic and international capital formation; improve The Bahamas’ global competitiveness, as we apply ourselves to global standards of trade, and aggressively pursue international partnerships that work to increase innovation and development.

“ It will better protect our trade by seizing upon the protections and safeguards of the rules based system that the WTO offers; improve access to global markets for Bahamian products and services through progressive bilateral arrangements within the WTO; and generate greater wealth opportunities for Bahamians through global business,” Mr. Symonette said.



“While we eagerly pursue these opportunities through our strategic economic policy which includes accession to the WTO among other things, the Government recognizes that WTO membership will present some challenges.

“While I note some of these challenges, let me quickly say that, contrary to popular belief, these challenges do not include the following: The free movement of labour, in which people from anywhere will have unfettered access to The Bahamas for work.

“Allow me to stress that is not a feature of the WTO at all; the unfettered access of companies like Walmart to The Bahamas; that too is simply not the case; the ability of any mom and pop store in the region or anywhere else in the world to freely set up shop in The Bahamas; yet another falsehood I must stress; and the inability of The Bahamas to determine its economic and monetary policy,” Mr. Symonette said.


Written by Jones Bahamas

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