Stakeholders in the Agriculture and Marine Resources sector got an opportunity to hear from the country’s lead negotiators as The Bahamas moves toward accession to the World Trade Organization come 2019. The purpose of the meeting was twofold: firstly, to facilitate a briefing on the WTO negotiations process and to ensure that farmers and fishers benefit from accurate information on the WTO and secondly, to hear their concerns so that to the extent possible, they can feed into the negotiations process. Addressing the meeting, Minister of Agriculture & Marine Resources, Hon. Michael Pintard outlined the three areas of focus for the agricultural sector:
1. Market access or tariffs/duties on agricultural products;
2. Domestic support or how public funds are expended in the agricultural sector and
3. Export competition, which refers to the subsidies provided to agricultural exports.
He assured the group that there are no discussions in the WTO negotiations on investments in either the agriculture or fisheries sector. For the fisheries sector, Minister Pintard reiterated the government’s position that there are no WTO negotiations planned. He noted that “the government is aware that there are sensitive fisheries products and the negotiators are aware of those products which are mainly those products that are caught by fishermen and will seek to maintain those tariffs as high as possible.” The one-day session was chaired by Government’s lead WTO negotiator, former State Minister for Finance, Zhivargo Laing and was attended by members of the fishing and farming community as well as officers of the Ministry of Agriculture & Marine Resources.