NASSAU, BAHAMAS- The country’s chief negotiator Zhivargo Laing yesterday confirmed it is “95 per cent unlikely” the government will proceed with World Trade Organization (WTO) accession in this current term.
However, Laing said if accession does not happen within this term – it won’t happen in the next decade.
The former state Minister for Finance was addressing an Inter-American Development Bank Economic Knowledge Event on “Enhancing Private Sector Competitiveness for The Bahamas”.
The event was staged via video conference from California.
Laing said: “In so far as the WTO process is concerned because of the noise in the market, the government hesitated and it is unlikely, 95 per cent unlikely there will be any movement toward joining the WTO in this term and quite frankly it likely will not happen in the next 10 years if it does not happen in this term.”
Laing forecast on his Guardian Radio talk show back in June, the country was unlikely to meet the June 2020 WTO accession deadline set by the Minnis administration.
He spoke out after Elsworth Johnson, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration, described the target as “purely aspirational”, and not one that must be met at all costs.
Yesterday, Laing said he still believes it is important for the country to join the WTO and sign on to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) because it would usher in reforms to competition laws.
“Today the Bahamas has draft competition laws because it signed on to the EPA that requires it,” Laing said.
“One of the things that is missed about the WTO is that it is a reform process. You don’t get to be in, you don’t get to be in compliance until there are standards set in your economy that represent international best practices in trade.”
“Once you join, you have a obligation to carry out those reform. There is no such obligation today.
Laing added: Many of the things we do in the Bahamas today are merely polices that can be changed any Tuesday that Cabinet decides to change them and that is for the good or for the ill of the country.”