A presentation was made to inform Abaco residents on the basic concepts and benefits of The Bahamas of becoming a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The goal of the WTO is to liberalize trading among the nations of the world. It was organized after World War II when trade wars were hampering economic development. The WTO sets up rules to ease world trade and monitors agreements between countries. It also handles trade disputes. At present 164 countries belong out of a total of 195 countries in the entire world.
Ava Rodland of the Ministry of Finance and Rashif Duncombe of the Attorney General’s office made the presentation. The meeting was held on June 14 at the Anglican Hall in Marsh Harbour and was organized by The Councillors represented by Khari Albury.
For several years The Bahamas has been preparing for acceptance in the WTO in various ways. It has had to modernize its rules and adopt international practices. We now have in place a Bureau of Standards and Quality. Tax reform has included putting the VAT tax in place.
Joining the WTO will have many benefits.
- It will lower the duty and other barriers to trade which will mean cheaper goods and services.
- It will encourage better and safer products.
- It will give Bahamians access to global markets.
- It will encourage economic diversification and reduce our reliance on just Tourism and Financial Services.
- It will allow us to integrate into the world economy.
- It will make The Bahamas more attractive for direct investment by foreigners.
- It is a voluntary process.
Our trade is not balanced as our imports are very high but lobster is our only major export.
The Bahamas will still be able to trade outside WTO; but if it does, it will not have a neutral organization to assist in working out any problems. At present we have no control over what duty is charged on our exports to other countries. Joining the WTO will make exporting more favorable. At this time we are in an unpredictable situation. It is expected that WTO will be a tool to assist economic growth, and more activity is predicted in export services (finance) as well as products and tourism which is considered an export.