Nassau, The Bahamas – Minister of Financial Services, Ryan Pinder says he fully ‘supports’ the resolution to approve $16.5 million for a loan for the trade sector. Mr. Pinder said that this loan would not only support the modernisation exercise of the Customs Department but can also be applied to facilitate the necessary components as the country moves towards World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession.
“The loan is going to provide a great momentum to our trade agenda and will benefit all Bahamians,” said Mr. Pinder. “The loan seeks to facilitate the implementation of the Customs Management Act by providing for training but it also will facilitate an entirely new platform for the way that Customs processes and captures data and will support the electronic submission of documents.” These initiatives, he said, will ease the way in which business is done in the country and may by extension, assist with the country’s ‘ease of doing business rankings.
He said that the trade component of the loan has identified three main areas of priority, including: 1) Training of public officers to strengthen institutional capacity ($105k) – this includes the manuals for immigration and Bahamas Investment Authority officers; 2) The establishment of a Bureau of Standards ($300k) – currently Bahamians purchase and consume largely unregulated products and 3) Intellectual Property ($390k) – these funds seek to modernise the way in which IP applications are processed and filed by the Government. There is also a component of the loan to support the WTO accession process.
Mr. Pinder also pointed out the importance of the context of ‘market access and the benefits that would be derived from it.
“There is little discussion, however, of what market access really means. We had an example of market access that prompted our entering into the EPA. The crawfish export industry represents some $70 million in pure exports. There was a concern that if we did not enter into the EPA that our regional counterparts would have a competitive advantage for exports into Europe because of the guarantee of preferential duty tariffs for crawfish into Europe granted to the signatories. As the Bahamas is the largest crawfish exporter in the region by a large margin, ensuring equal footing among competitors was essential.”
He said that although this particular example concerned the fisheries industry, similar issues also affect other industries. He said that WTO accession would guarantee the Bahamas the market access it needs to support international trade.
“The immediate benefit for the business sector from WTO accession is the legal guarantee of continuing access to U.S. and other world markets on more favourable and guaranteed terms,” said Mr. Pinder.
“While not widely recognised, The Bahamas currently has no guaranteed rights of market access to any foreign markets except those of the European Union and other CARIFORUM states (because of the EPA).”
Mr. Pinder used the crawfish industry to illustrate the importance of trade alliances such as the WTO.
“As an example, using the same example with the crawfish industry, which has substantial exports to countries in North America, if certain markets wanted to protect their industry, they could legally impose a prohibitive duty tariff on crawfish imports from The Bahamas,” said Mr. Pinder.
“An action as specific as this would be perfectly legal in international law as we do not have the legal guarantee of market access for our goods because the Bahamas, is the only country in this hemisphere, that is not a member of the WTO.”
By Betty Vedrine
Bahamas Information Services