Mitchell Addresses Women’s Branch On WTO

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For Immediate Release
16th December 2018

PLP spokesman on international trade, Senator Fred Mitchell, addressed the New Providence Women’s Branch of the PLP on the implications of WTO on Sunday, 16th December 2018.

Highlights of the presentation are as follows:

1947…General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)

1995…GATT was replaced by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Bahamas is the only country in this hemisphere that did not join the WTO in 1995.

2000…Bahamas Government announced its intention to join the WTO. We became observers in 2001.

2017…Bahamas Government advised WTO that The Bahamas intends to join the WTO by 31st December 2019. Further, technical assistance was requested.

The PLP believes that meeting the December 2019 is overly ambitious, given all the work that needs to be done.

September 2018…Trade Minister Brent Symonette led a delegation to Switzerland to meet with the WTO.

The average customs tariff that is posited as a goal for WTO countries is on average 15 per cent. The Bahamas will have to meet that or lower. While adjustments have been made to the existing customs and tax regimes, there will be significant revenue impacts which will require further adjustments to make up lost revenue.

The goal of the WTO is to eliminate predatory global trade practices and level the proverbial playing field.

In order to accede, you have to settle issues with various trade partners. We settled issues with China. The issues with United States have not been settled, amongst them matters involving intellectual property.

There is a similar Bahamas push back to WTO as it was to CSME. The PLP has not yet been formally briefed on the matters involving WTO. The offer to do so from the Government remains outstanding. At a convenient point, the offer will be taken up. We are taking the temperature of the public.

The PLP was not asked for its support by the Government and we have not offered it. It is our view that the public needs to make its views known.

The PLP would want adequate carve outs and protections for local sectors including business, manufacturing, services and agriculture. We will not support any offer that does not adequately address these issues.

In addition, given the antipathy of the present US administration to WTO, the Government should pause until it is clear what direction the WTO reform process is going to take. End