Bahamas’ WTO Membership Is ‘No Fait Accompli’15 Nov 2018

Negotiations will produce the best outcomes for The Bahamas

Zhivago Laing

Mr. Zhivargo Laing: The Bahamas’ Chief World Trade Organisation (WTO) Negotiator

The Government’s chief World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiator yesterday said The Bahamas’ accession was no “fait accompli”, telling accountants: “I’m not tied to any outcome.”

Zhivargo Laing, the former Cabinet Minister, told attendees at the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) conference: “It’s either the case that this works to the benefit of The Bahamas or we decide that we don’t do it; it doesn’t make sense. Why should we do any reform that does not enure to the benefit of this economy?

“It makes no sense just to belong. Belonging should have benefits. That is the job of negotiation; to ensure that whatever we negotiate has meaningful benefit to The Bahamas. That’s my mindset. I’m not tied to any outcome. I am tied to ensuring the best negotiations to produce the best outcomes for The Bahamas.”

Businesses will have a three to five-year adjustment period

Mr. Laing described this nation’s decision to accede to full WTO membership as one of the “‘most strategic the Government has ever made”.

“Almost every other decision made was because we were asked or forced to do something,” he said. “We started this in 2001. The average journey is nine years.”

The Minnis Cabinet is pushing for The Bahamas to become a full World Trade Organisation (WTO) member by 2019, with the Government set to lose $40m in revenue by eliminating or reducing import tariffs under its present offers.

“I believe we should scrutinise this whole process, get as much information as we can and hold all of us accountable in this process. I am absolutely committed to going to Geneva to negotiate agreed positions, meaning that we have all agreed where the red line is we will not cross,” said Mr. Laing.

He added that once The Bahamas joins the WTO, local industries will have at least a three to five-year adjustment period. The WTO has provisions to allow local businesses to make the necessary price adjustments.

Source: The Tribune

Click here for more information on the WTO and the nation’s accession process.