By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Poaching by Dominican Republic fishermen has created “a very significant trade issue”, a Cabinet Minister said yesterday, given that 97 per cent of the crawfish harvest was exported and that the Bahamas had to prove to Europe it was “sustainable”.
Speaking to Tribune Business just prior to flying to the Dominican Republic with Cabinet colleagues to meet with the Dominican Republic’s government on the issue, Ryan Pinder said the poaching was complicating the Bahamas’ to certify to the European Union (EU) that the crawfish industry was sustainable.
“It’s very significant for trade,” the Minister of Financial Services told Tribune Business. “Ninety-seven per cent of the harvest is for export, and with this EU certification process we have to certify that this resource is sustainable. This can cause an issue with respect to trade.”
Both the Bahamas and Dominican Republic, as part of the CARIFORUM group, are signatories to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.
Mr Pinder said he had met with his Dominican Republic ministerial counterpart at last week’s Brussels meetings on the EPA.
The Dominican Republic trade minister had chaired the CARIFORUM group’s meeting, and Mr Pinder said his counterpart was “very interested in having a services consortia to lever the region’s services and financial services industries”.
He had discussed this with his opposite number, the main idea being to access the EU market collectively when it came to trade in services and investment. The CARIFORUM group’s collective strength, the theory goes, would be better than going it alone.
Meanwhile, Mr Pinder confirmed that the Bahamas’ services and investments offer was formally ratified by the EPA Joint Council - the highest body that oversees the agreement.
That means the offer, which was agreed in 2010, has been formally ratified and incorporated into the EPA agreement. It will now govern how the Bahamas’ services sector operates when it comes to trade, at least with Europe.
“Our services and investments offer was unanimously accepted without objection and opposition,” Mr Pinder told Tribune Business. “The Bahamas is a world leader in services, and we believe we will be highly competitive in that sector.”
Mr Pinder added that he also led CARIFORUM objections to EU plans to reduce trade support to nations such as the Bahamas, which have a relatively high GDP per capita income.
“I made the argument that with a narrow and volatile economy, and the volatility based on external issues, you cannot use GDP per capita” as an indicator to determine this, Mr Pinder said yesterday.
With Hurricane Sand providing an immediate example, Mr Pinder said the Bahamas’ geography required it to undertake capital investment and damage repairs on a multi-year basis.
“There are various aspects of our geography that cannot be ignored and have to be taken into account in making this evaluation,” he added.
“Our costs of providing services are substantially higher than other countries because of our archipelago.”
Mr Pinder said his message was “well received by the EU”, and he “made very clear to them” that the Bahamas required technical support and infrastructure to help it implement the Government’s trade agenda and integrate better into the world economy.”
He added that he was backed by other Caribbean nations, including St Lucia, Barbados and the Dominican Republic.
Mr Pinder said that during his meeting with Pascal Lamy, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) director-general “agreed to speak to a high level meeting of the Cabinet” on the accession process.
Whether this will happen in person or via video conference is unclear, but Mr Pinder said the briefing would take place “in the near future”.
It would provide advice and information to aid the Government decision-making process, with Mr Lamy detailing “the advantages for the Bahamas” and providing reassurance on the accession procedures.