Johnson: Missed WTO targets not the focus

Johnson: Missed WTO targets not the focus
Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Finance Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson.

The Minnis administration had set June 2020 as a the target for World Trade Organization (WTO), a process which the country undertook two decades ago.

Johnson spoke to the initiative during his contribution to the budget debate yesterday.

“While the Minnis led administration is committed to reforming the country’s trading regime and its laws, strengthening existing institutions or creating new ones to facilitate trade, strict time-lines and meeting target dates are not the principle goals in this process,” he said.

“Paramount for this administration is the necessity to ensure that any trade negotiations that The Bahamas might be involved in are ultimately beneficial to the Bahamian people and the future development of The Bahamas.”

Johnson acknowledged that this nation must find ways to participate in discussions which will impact the international trading system and by extension The Bahamas.

“The Bahamas must and should be present and leading as discussions on such issues occur within international organizations tasked to address such issues,” he said.

He noted that an Oxford Economics report commissioned by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) had noted that “the potential economic impact of WTO accession will be positive over the medium term for the country with the near term crucially dependent on the government efforts to put in place structural reforms”.

Johnson noted that in 2015 a compendium of Intellectual Property Rights legislation was enacted by Parliament.

“Regulations to bring the new legislation into effect have been drafted,” he said.

Johnson noted that strong intellectual property legislation which is enforced by the government goes a long way to ensuring that local and foreign investors that their investments are protected.

He also told Parliament that government is considering draft Competition (Antitrust legislation) building on an existing draft competition bill, developing scenarios for institutional design for a competition agency taking into account the powers and functions of URCA under the Communications Act and models existing in other Caricom jurisdictions.

Johnson further noted that government will seek to enact a foreign investment bill which will seek to codify the national investment policy, tariff quota regulations, anti-dumping regulations, animal health, food safety and plant protection regulations as well as a public procurement bill.

“The Bahamas must prepare itself to meet the challenges of trading with its international partners and this will require change,” he said.

“Key for policy makers will be the pace of those changes. While we have made significant strides in the legislative reforms necessary, more work is required.”