Categorized | National News

WTO Offers Certainty Of Investment, Says Laing

What is the future of the World Trade Organization (WTO) for The Bahamas? Lead WTO negotiator for The Bahamas, Zhivargo Laing, said it is an opportunity for certainty of investment as well as exposure for future generations.

During a breakfast meeting with members of The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce & Employees Confederation, Mr. Laing said that once the country becomes a part of the WTO, investment relationships between countries change, which is a benefit of the WTO.

“My aim and objective is to be able to secure membership and the benefits that come without significantly overplaying the areas of the economy that are reserved for Bahamians.

“If you are a Bahamian young person in this generation and you have an interest in banking, banking is an  open forum participation now;  what’s your future? If you’re interested in Tourism, it’s an open forum for  participation;  what’s your future?

“If you had enough Bahamians interested in manufacturing, it’s not closed to foreign participation, what’s your future? I’m an economist, the lawyers have requirements by law that if you are not Bahamian, you can’t pass the bar. That’s not true for economists. We have economists right now studying the WTO, not a problem.

“We can’t have your cake and eat it too. We have 15 areas reserved; so Bahamians who want to go in those areas have a challenge with competition, but every other Bahamian in almost every other sector, has competition. How is that fair?

“I can tell you this, the ones who compete in open spaces, because of that, they have had to strive in such a way that they can play on any field, anywhere.

“So, I have done economic work for other countries, that’s the future for my children and yours. We have got to make sure that they are equipped enough to offer their skills and talents and compete in business anywhere in the world, because one day just by growth, the field for supplying locally is going to be saturated, then what do you do?” Mr. Laing  asked.

Citing  three Caribbean restaurants operating in the U S, one a Jamaican restaurant, the other two Bahamian owned restaurants,  Mr. Laing revealed that the amenities the Jamaican restaurant  receives is not afforded to the Bahamian restaurants.

“Golden Krust is a Jamaican franchise doing extremely well in America. They are in America, Jamaica is in the WTO. Bahama Grill and Bamboo Shack are both in Florida.

“Here’s the difference: United States of America is obligated to treat Golden Krust the same as it treats a Mexican franchise, a Canadian franchise, a German Franchise; it is obligated to treat Golden Krust the same as an American franchise. It has no such obligation to Bahama Grill and Bamboo Shack.

“Now yes, they may not discriminate today, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t tomorrow. That’s why most people want to have the benefit of a contractual arrangement in respect of their investments; and that’s what a WTO membership does for outward investments, for Bahamians investing in a member country of the WTO,” Mr. Laing said.

With it still being at the negotiating stage, many questions surrounding The Bahamas’ ascension to WTO are still being asked.  One in particular is whether or not the country can get out of the organization after signing on.

Mr. Laing said that if joining the WTO does not work for the Bahamas and Bahamians, leaving is not difficult.

” Article 15 of the World Trade Organization Agreement says, ‘any member can withdraw from this agreement by submitting notice of withdrawal and such notice shall take effect six months after the notice had been received’. You can get out anyway,” Mr. Laing said.

Mr. Laing said that as negotiator all things are taken into consideration.

He said joining the WTO was a decision made 18 years ago.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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