The World Trade Organization (WTO) was established on the 1st January 1995 on the signing of the Marrakesh Agreement. It is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations and is dedicated to facilitating trade between member states. Prior to the establishment of the WTO, international trade issues were implemented under the provisions of the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
The WTO ensures that trade matters are effectively addressed
The WTO serves as a forum for negotiating trade agreements and the settlement of trade disputes between its Members. The organization also supports the needs of developing countries by building capacity on international trade matters of government officials in developing countries and assisting countries who are not yet members of the organization to become members of the WTO. The WTO also assist in conducting economic research, collecting and disseminating trade data in support of the WTO’s other main activities and explaining to and educating the public about the WTO, its mission and its activities. The WTO works to ensure that trade matters are addressed as effectively as possible and decisions of the organization are made by consensus.
The Bahamas applied to become a member of the WTO in 2001
Since its inception, 164 countries have joined the WTO, representing more than 98% of total world trade. There are (22) Observers, most seeking membership. The Bahamas has observer status in the WTO and is the only country in the western hemisphere that is not yet a member.
Recognizing that WTO membership brings stability and predictability conducive for trade and investment and that it cannot defend its own trade interests in the global trade arena if it does not have a seat at the table, in May 2001 The Bahamas applied to become a member of the WTO. Membership into the WTO is not automatic but is through a complex negotiation process with other Members of the WTO.
The Bahamas’ legal framework must comply with WTO rules
In order to join the WTO, the Government must ensure that its legal and regulatory framework is compliant with WTO rules. To align its national legal framework with WTO rules, certain legislative amendments must be implemented and the operations of certain institutions will have to be modernized, including the Customs Department, the Registrar General’s Department, and the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Government will also be required to make tariff commitments on imported goods (i.e. in its Goods Offer the Government will have to set import duties at a maximum rate that the Government agrees not to exceed, except in very limited circumstances), as well as commitments on the level of openness of various services sectors within the Bahamian economy (i.e. in its Services Offer the Government will Liberalise specific service sectors under certain circumstances). The drafting of the Goods and Services Offers to be used in the negotiations have had the input of industry stakeholders as a result of consultations held in April 2018. These Offers will be circulated to The Bahamas’ trading partners, through the WTO Secretariat, and form the basis of negotiations with WTO members led by The Bahamas’ WTO Negotiating Team. Based on the outcome of negotiations, further consultation with the industry stakeholders may be required to ensure that the requests of our trading partners – as well as the overall requirements to accede to the WTO – are tenable and mutually beneficial.
Key steps have been taken to facilitate the nation’s accession
Once the negotiations have been completed, the finalized negotiated commitments on goods and services will be included in The Bahamas’ “accession package”. In addition to the negotiated commitments on goods and services, the accession package will include the Government’s commitment to being bound to the rules contained in the WTO Agreements.
To assist in its accession process, in September 2015 The Bahamas opened a Mission in Geneva which is accredited to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva. The Government of The Bahamas has also reconstituted The Bahamas Trade Commission, which has responsibility for sensitizing the Bahamian public and the business community about the effects of trade liberalization on the Bahamian economy, the full implications of trade agreements, and making recommendations and/or creating a plan to integrate trade Agreements into everyday business activity in The Bahamas.
The Government of The Bahamas has set a target date of late 2019 or early 2020 to complete its WTO accession negotiations, to coincide with the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference.
WTO Background Information
Click here to review the November 2018 WTO Accession Booklet which provides pertinent information on the importance of domestic and international trade, the objectives of the WTO, The Bahamas’ WTO accession process and the status of accession negotiations.
Additional background information:
- Access a brief guide to understanding the WTO
- Access a brief guide to the WTO accession process
- Review Caribbean Export’s 10 Benefits of the WTO Trading System
- Learn about some of the benefits of WTO accession
WTO-Related Press Releases & Speeches
Follow WTO-related statements made by Government Officials and other relevant stakeholders below:
- Hon. Brent Symonette advises on preparations for the 3rd Working Party Meeting on The Bahamas’ WTO Accession and the appointment of Mr. Zhivargo Laing as The Bahamas’ WTO Chief Negotiator
- Statement by Zhivargo Laing on Appointment as The Bahamas’ WTO Chief Negotiator
- Opening Statement by Mrs. Brickell Pinder, The Bahamas’ Lead Negotiator on Agriculture, at 3rd Working Party Meeting on The Bahamas’ WTO Accession, 27th September, 2018, Geneva, Switzerland
- Opening Statement by Hon. Brent Symonette at 3rd Working Party Meeting on The Bahamas’ WTO Accession, 28th September, 2018, Geneva, Switzerland
- Press Statement following the 3rd Working Party Meeting on The Bahamas’ WTO Accession, 29th September, 2018
- WTO Press Statement following the 3rd Working Party Meeting on The Bahamas’ WTO Accession, 21st September, 2018
- Video (below): Mr. Zhivargo Laing Appointed as The Bahamas’ WTO Chief Negotiator
The Bahamas’ Legislative Action Plan (LAP)
States wishing to accede to the WTO are required to assess to what extent their domestic trade-related legislation and practices conform to WTO rules. Having identified the gaps in domestic legislation, acceding states are encouraged to prepare a comprehensive Legislative Action Plan (LAP) which contains a full inventory of enacted WTO-related legislation as well as a Roadmap for WTO-related domestic legislative agenda.
The Bahamas’ LAP will be updated on a regular basis based on discussions with the Office of the Attorney General, the Law Reform & Review Commission and relevant Government Ministries and stakeholders.
The WTO Roadmap is an indicative and revolving document which outlines a tentative schedule of steps to be taken to accede to the WTO. Timelines/ dates are suggested to assist the Government and WTO Negotiating Team in planning.
The indicated meetings/events are not automatic and will only proceed based on relevant instructions from national authorities, processing by the WTO Secretariat and review & comment by WTO Members upon circulation.
Click here for the latest version of the Roadmap.
Contact the Ministry of Financial Services for more information
For more information on the WTO, contact the Ministry of Financial Services, Campbell Maritime Centre, West Bay St, PO Box N-4843, Nassau, Bahamas; Tel (242) 328-5071, Fax (242) 328-8090 or (242) 328-8055. You can also visit http://www.bahamasministryoffinancialservices.com/ or message firstname.lastname@example.org