In what has to rate as one of the most insensitive and outrageous demands on a Caribbean country, US government representatives have told the Bahamas government that it must drop “all duties” on US products entering the country as a condition of being admitted to membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Should the Bahamas agree to do so, the country would lose the larger part of US$700 million that it earns from duties on imports, the vast majority of which comes from the US for obvious reasons of proximity. In effect, agreement to what amounts to a preposterous request from the US would create such a large hole in the government’s revenues that it would be impossible for it to provide the goods and services that the Bahamian people have a right to expect of their government. Incidentally, that includes fighting drug trafficking and curbing the inflow of refugees on which the US places great emphasis.
What is more, surrender to the US demands would have a wholly decimating effect on such manufacturing that occurs in the Bahamas or that may be introduced in the future as part of a chain of operations that adds value in the course of multi-country production. If there is a phased approach to the reduction or elimination of duties on US products that compete with theirs, the present manufacturers would have the time to make adjustments to their production and marketing, and thus may survive.
Not unreasonably, the Bahamas Minister for Financial Services, Ryan Pinder, told his country’s Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation that his government rejected the US request on the basis that it would virtually wipe out the domestic economy.