The Minister of Financial Services, the Hon. C.V. Hope Strachan, led a local delegation to represent The Bahamas at the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 10th Ministerial Conference which was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 14th to 18th December, 2015. It marked the first time that a Ministerial Conference was hosted by an African nation.
The WTO is an international intergovernmental organization responsible for the creation and development of the legal framework governing international trade. The Ministerial Conference, which is comprised of Ministers of Trade from all WTO Member States, is the highest decision-making body of the WTO and is mandated to meet every two years.
A number of important Ministerial Decisions on trade rules relating to agriculture, cotton and issues related to least developed countries (LDCs) were on the negotiating agenda. Minister Strachan used the opportunity to address the plenary session of the Conference to provide an update on the status of The Bahamas’ accession to the WTO.
Minister Strachan advised the Member States in attendance at the plenary session that The Bahamas had made significant strides in its accession process and remained fully committed to its successful conclusion. However, she emphasized the unique constraints of the country. “The Government of The Bahamas is mindful of both the vulnerabilities of the Bahamian economy and the benefits of WTO membership. As a small developing archipelago, The Bahamas faces peculiar developmental challenges including replicating infrastructure on twenty two inhabited islands, regardless of size or population. The country is vulnerable to external shocks, hurricanes and flooding as demonstrated last October, when Hurricane Joaquin devastated the livelihood of thousands of people in the central Bahamas. This presents economic challenges for the country.”
She also noted the critical importance of gaining access to foreign markets and attracting foreign direct investment to the economic well being of The Bahamas, and the role that WTO membership could play in facilitating the achievement of those goals. She appealed to the Member States in attendance to not overlook The Bahamas’ unique challenges nor require The Bahamas to make concessions or commitments that would constrain the country’s development objectives or exceed those undertaken by its Caribbean neighbours.
In addition to Minister Strachan, other members of the Bahamian delegation to the WTO’s Ministerial Conference included Keva Bain, Legal Advisor / Acting Director of Trade and Industry at the Ministry of Financial Services; Ambassador Rhoda Jackson of the Permanent Mission of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, Switzerland; and Ava Rodland, Project Manager in the Ministry of Financial Services.