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Bahamas Committed To Joining WTO

by Mike Godfrey, Lowtax.net, Washington
18 January, 2016

The Bahamas has made "significant strides in its accession process and remains fully committed to joining the World Trade Organization (WTO)," the territory's Trade Minister, Hope Strachan, said.

As part of its accession bid, the Bahamas will need to agree to reduce the tariffs it applies to imports, including in bilateral discussions. The Bahamas submitted its application to join the WTO in 2001 and is currently in the process of negotiating the terms of its membership. Strachan addressed a recent WTO Ministerial Conference to update members on the territory's progress.

Strachan emphasized that access to foreign markets and attracting foreign direct investment is crucial to the economic well-being of the Bahamas and that membership in the WTO brings the stability and predictability conducive for trade and investment. She further noted that remaining on the fringes of the WTO system is "no longer a viable option for the Bahamas."

Strachan told the plenary session that the Government is mindful of both the vulnerabilities of the Bahamian economy and the benefits of WTO membership. She pointed out, however, that the process of accession and negotiating to become a member of the WTO remains challenging for the Bahamas given the country's limited capacity and resources.

"As a small developing archipelago, the Bahamas faces peculiar developmental and economic challenges, including the replication of infrastructure on twenty two inhabited islands, regardless of size or population. Consequently, the Bahamas is largely excluded from eligibility for certain international loans and grants, because of what is perceived as the country's relatively high per capita income, which ignores practical realties of archipelagos like the Bahamas and does not truly reflect the peculiarities of the income structure of the country," she said.

Strachan also called for a successful conclusion of the Doha Round talks on a global free trade deal, stating: "The Bahamas, like other developing countries, has been pressing for a continuation of the Doha Development Round of negotiations and compromises in order to come to a mutually agreeable conclusion for all countries and trade partners involved (in favor of increased global trade). Many developed members are of the view that in the 14 years of negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda, the negotiations have not produced any substantial outcomes, necessitating a move in a new direction, and to use new and creative methods of negotiation in order to address the broken negotiating function of the WTO. However, our view is that we must continue to explore opportunities through the established means to make meaningful progress sooner rather than later."

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