Bahamas WTO Accession Process Nearly 20 Years in the Making

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Pictured are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC). The group participated in a forum recently hosted by the Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ). The group provided an array of presentations including an update on The Bahamas' accession process to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Pictured L-R : Hema Menon, Trade Training Officer, Export Quality Management, International Trade Centre; Zhivargo Laing, Chief Negotiator for The Bahamas Accession to the Word Trade Organization; Dr. Renae Bufford, Executive Director of the The Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ); Lauro Locks, Counsellor (Legal), TBT Unit, Trade and Environment Division, World Trade Organization (WTO) and Gergana Kishinova, Project Officer, Trade and Environment Division, World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Working Party on The Bahamas accession to the World Trade Organization was established in July 2001. Now nearly two decades later, this country is on the verge of breaking the record for taking the longest time in its negotiations in this respect. To date, the process has passed through the hands of five government administrations, only
completing two out of the seven steps required. Speaking at a forum held by Bahamas Bureau for Standards and Quality (BBSQ), Zhivargo Laing, Chief Negotiator for The Bahamas Accession to the WTO, provided an update at one-day open forum termed “The National Forum 2019: Standards Facilitating Trade”. The event was recently hosted by the Bahamas Bureau for Standards and Quality (BBSQ).
According to Mr. Laing, the Trade Negotiation Team has provided its recommendations and is currently awaiting instructions from the
Government regarding further advancement of the negotiations.

“…The average time for acceding to the WTO is about nine and a half years,” he said. “The time taken by us so far means that we are nearing record setting,” Laing said. He noted that Seychelles was currently the record holder with twenty years. “The shortest was three years by Kyrgyz Republic. It was the Government’s aim to conclude the WTO accessions by the next ministerial conference of the WTO in June of next year. That will not now happen.”

He continued: “Any fair reading of our present circumstances would suggest that we are looking at probably a minimum of five additional years.” During his time as Chief Negotiator, Laing said some headway has been made. However, he is combating a major challenge – the Internet. “It’s been more difficult because of the social media opportunities people have use of—those broad and powerful platforms to spread things that are not true. That makes it more difficult than
anything else,” he said.

That’s where the BBSQ’s support comes in, Dr. Renae Bufford, Director of The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality noted in her welcome
remarks. “Knowing that standards will play a significant role in The Bahamas’ drive towards accession to membership in WTO, it was only natural that BBSQ should conceive of and host this forum,” she said. “It seeks to inform on and clarify some key issues on the accession process. “Therefore, technical aspects of the of the day will focus on non-tariff measures (NTMs) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), which are particularly important to a nation such as The Bahamas that relies heavily on imports,” Dr. Bufford said.

The forum was open to the public and included presenters from the WTO as well as TBT. The BBSQ’s desired outcome is to enhance
public/private collaborations that will aid in the Accession process with hopes of The Bahamas moving with quality and confidence and into
beneficial global trade.

(Pictured) Zhivargo Laing, Chief Negotiator for The Bahamas Accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO)gives an update on the country’s accession process. He gave his remarks at a forum hosted by the “Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality at the National Forum 2019: Standards Facilitating Trade”. The open one-day forum was recently held at Breezes Superclub.

Dr. Renae Bufford, Director of The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (Pictured), speaks to a forum held recently by Bahamas Bureau for Standards and Quality (BBSQ).

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