By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE BAHAMAS will be exploring the possibility of removing trade barriers with Haiti, said Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell.
Speaking with The Tribune from the CARICOM heads of government
conference in St Lucia, Mr Mitchell said on their request he will be meeting with Haitian representatives to discuss ways to eliminate obstacles that hinder Haiti exporting, in particular agriculture, directly to the Bahamas.
“One of the issues is the present fight of sanitary procedures, the Bahamas does not allow agricultural goods to be imported directly from Haiti to the Bahamas,” he said.
“We are trying to see whether or not the barriers to trade can be removed and that has to do with our fight of sanitary procedures which have to be put in place to allow that to happen.”
It does not make sense, for the example, Mr Mitchell said, for mangos from Haiti, which are of excellent quality, to have to go through the United States before being shipped to the Bahamas.
He said while some progress has already been made on the matter, it is up to the customs department and Ministry of Agriculture to resolve the issues.
Earlier this week Mr Mitchell led a group of representatives, including State Minister of Finance Michael Halkitis, Damian Gomez, State Minister for Legal Affairs, and two Foreign Service workers, Nicole Archer and Charmaine Williams to the conference.
The session officially began on Wednesday and will continue to Friday.
The St Lucia gathering would be the thirty-third meeting of the conference.
The Bahamas joined CARICOM on July 4, 1983 and has been an active member, chairing the conference three times on July 1984 to June 1985, July 1 to December 31, 1993, and most recently from July 1 to December 31, 2001.
Yesterday, heads of government met and had “spirited discussions” about the commitment to CARICOM and its role within the region, said Mr Mitchell.
Additionally, he said they will be exploring the idea of the Bahamas and Haiti forming a joint commission, which the foreign ministers would head, to discuss key issues, including immigration, investment and trade, anti-crime methods and smuggling.
Other topics expected to be discussed is Trinidad’s efforts to amend the Treaty of Chaguaramas to access the criminal side of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Mr Mitchell said, there are some interests in the Bahamas joining the criminal jurisdiction of this high court.
The government, however, has decided that the Bahamas will not be going any further with the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).