The government has appointed Zhivargo Laing to lead the country’s negotiation team for accession to World Trade Organization (WTO) membership. The announcement was made September 9, 2018, during a press conference held at the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration. Minister of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration, the Hon. Brent Symonette said the government is confident that Mr. Laing is well-suited to lead accession negotiations and ensure that the terms of WTO membership would be mutually beneficial to The Bahamas and WTO members. “Mr. Laing, who is trained in economics and finance, once had responsibility for international trade policy and during his tenure as Minister of State for Finance led The Bahamas’ application to accede to the WTO in 2001,” said Minister Symonette.
Thanking the government for the appointment and extending gratitude to Ray Winder, who preceded him as Chief Negotiator for WTO, Mr. Laing said that the appointment comes at a ‘unique’ time as he currently leads the Government and Public Policy Institute at the University of The Bahamas (UB). “The presence today of UB President, Dr. Rodney Smith and Provost Dr. Linda A. Davis, signals the university’s support of my appointment as Chief Negotiator,” said Mr. Laing. “The university will bring to bear its substantial resources to ensure that these kinds of undertakings are grounded in informed expertise. In fact, we at the university invite the government to consider other areas in which UB faculty and researchers can add value and build capacity within the country by serving as consultants where necessary.”
As the Chief Negotiator, Mr. Laing has been mandated to lead efforts to ensure that the strategic intent of the country’s attempt to join WTO is effectively fulfilled. To this end, Mr. Laing will lead a delegation to the third meeting of the Working Party on the accession of The Bahamas to the WTO on 21st September 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland. In November 2017, the government committed to accelerating efforts to finalize the country’s accession to WTO membership by December 2019. As a result, several consultations have been held with stakeholders representing a cross-section of economic areas in order to acquire private sector input.
The Ministry of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration has now submitted all necessary negotiation inputs required by the WTO Secretariat to formally recommence negotiations. The Bahamas’ delegation will be led by the Hon. Brent Symonette, accompanied by Zhivargo Laing; Acting Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson; and other senior technical officers from the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade & Industry, and Immigration and the Ministry of Agriculture & Marine Resources. If the accession negotiations and terms of WTO membership prove to be mutually beneficial, The Bahamas intends to join the WTO in late 2019 or mid-2020.