The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) Chief Executive Officer Edison Sumner suggested Wednesday, that The Bahamas might have been able to dodge the recent European Union (EU) blacklisting if it had international agencies such as the World Trade organization (WTO) to negotiate on its behalf.
His comments came just one day after The Bahamas was blacklisted by the EU. The country was added to a list of jurisdictions deemed to facilitate tax havens.
“We can mitigate against it,” said Sumner.
“If we sign on to the WTO, and put other measures in place, we can improve our tax infrastructure and several other fiscal rules and policies that we need to put in place. Then I think we can mitigate against it (blacklisting) in the future.”
He continued, “We are exposed and have no one negotiating on our behalf with agencies like the EU and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But, we are learning that once we get into the WTO, we will have more strength to negotiate. At that point, we are able to essentially demand the same rights and benefits that other countries currently enjoy and that is something that we do not have at the moment.”
However, successive governments have seemingly belabored the WTO accession process.
The conversation of signing with the international organization started under the Ingraham administration in 2001.
Since then, the Ingraham-led Free National Movement (FNM) and both Christie-led Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administrations, have been accused of dropping the ball in effort to finalize the agreement.
Seventeen years later and the current FNM administration, now led by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, has stated its intent to complete accession to the WTO by 2019.
The BCCEC chief said his organization remains hopeful that the government will follow through.
“We’ve got to be sure that the country can become competitive in the global environment that when we have demands, like other countries have demands, that those demands will be adhered to, or at least given some consideration,” Sumner said.
The Bahamas was blacklisted alongside Saint Kitts and Nevis, the U.S. Virgin Islands and nine other countries.
Blacklisted jurisdictions could face reputational damage and stricter controls on their financial transactions with the EU.