Darren Henfield attended CARICOM, July 4-6 2018 bilateral meetings on trade issues impacting region and The Bahamas. He attended the business working breakfast session, where the CARICOM Heads heard from the prime ministerial sub-committee on external and trade relations. “The focus of the meeting was to hear reports on three main issues – the World Trade Organization, the post ACP-the Cotonou Agreement, and trade as it relates to the European Union post-Brexit. “We know that the Cotonou Agreement is coming to a close by 2020 and we are in the process of trying to negotiate our way forward, as a region. “And then, of course, Bexit is upon us and so we have to figure a way to communicate with them after they would have departed the European Union,” he said.
Mr. Henfiend said that The Bahamas, as well as the region, is a bit concerned as a number of trade wars are brewing with major trading partners in the WTO. “So we are going to have to look at this very carefully and hope that these issues can be readily resolved.” Added Mr. Henfield: “We are operating in a free capitalistic society and market and economy and so trade is what the WTO is all about. Some 96 or more percent of the world’s trade goes through countries that are part of WTO.” Regarding discussions on integration, Mr. Henfield said he believes the Bahamian people are not fully ready to open the borders of The Bahamas, for obvious reasons. “We are a small developing country with (about) 400,000 in population. I believe we are among the more integrated countries in the region, quietly.”
He noted that in various stages of development, The Bahamas recruited professionals from all over the region namely Barbados, whose professionals came to The Bahamas to work in areas such land surveying, engineering, doctors, lawyers and particularly teachers. “We have a free open application for immigration to The Bahamas to apply for positions that are available,” Mr. Henfield said. As far as Haiti is concerned an estimated, $58 million in remittances left The Bahamas for Haiti in 2017, he said. “Experts say that’s World Bank figures. Experts say if you multiply that by three you account for what goes into the informal economy and so you are looking at an average of maybe $150 million. “Larger countries call this overseas development assistance. We can’t call it overseas development assistance but it’s money from migrants; from Caribbean people, going back to support another Caribbean economy. “So even though we are not signatory to CARICOM SME and this open movement of people because of obvious reasons, we think it happens informally in The Bahamas and formally in some instances,” Mr. Henfield said.