The Ministry of Finance has established an International Trade Unit to monitor negotiations in world trade agreements, Minister of State for Finance the Hon Zhivargo Laing disclosed.

He was addressing the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce on trade matters at their Annual General Meeting held at the British Colonial Hilton Wednesday.

“We have determined that we have established an International Trade Unit with a director and full-time staff to monitor the assessment in negotiating and consulting on matters of international trade arena,” Mr. Laing said.

“We are going to augment the research capacity of that International Trade Unit through a relationship with the College of the Bahamas in which they will be contracted to do trade-related research, supported by consultants locally and internationally.”

This, he said, will realise a permanent human resource capacity in the government for the development of the country’s international trade policy.

Mr. Laing also proposed that the trade commission of the country has to be a much more enhanced feature of its trade policy development.

“We will charge the trade commission with informing and receiving input from the private sector on matters relating to trade. The trade commission ought to have the benefit of a secretariat with the ability to do its administrative work and have the support of the International Trade Unit,” Mr. Laing said

He told the group of businesspersons that the government engaged a Canadian consultancy firm to assist with its international trade policy development, in particular, providing advice on accession into the World Trade Organisation and negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreement with Europe.

The Bahamas obtained WTO Observer Status in 2000 and applied for membership therein in 2001.
Mr Laing said The Bahamas has started the process of reapplying for membership in the WTO, as it would be to its “advantage” to complete such a process.

The Bahamas has participated in three trading arrangements – the Caribbean Basin Initiative, the Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN), and the CONTONU agreement with the European Union, he said.

“The Bahamas has to, with other Caribbean nations, make determinations about what it is going to do about Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN) because those will not continue as unilateral arrangements,” Mr. Laing said.

He said that there is no other arrangement The Bahamas is contending. Negotiations on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) are stalled, and WTO rounds are stalled but are likely to resume at some point.

“But this administration has determined that no longer can it pursue its international trade policy in the haphazard manner that has been our mainstay today,” Mr. Laing said.