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Wto Delay: We Must Get On With It

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Carey Leonard

By Youri Kemp

A prominent Freeport attorney says he is extremely disappointed in comments made by The Bahamas’ World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) chief negotiator, Zhivargo Laing that it is '95 percent unlikely' that the government will accede to the WTO during this current term.

Carey Leonard, senior associate at the Callender’s and Co. in Grand Bahama, told Tribune Business WTO accession had to happen.

"The government must do this by 2021,” said Leonard.

“When one travelled in the 70s and 80s we were ahead of many countries even in Europe. For the last ten years we have fallen further and further behind. In terms of financial transactions and other commerce related matters.”

Leonard claims the reason why these countries are ahead of us now is “the WTO drives a process of business reform” as Laing recognises.

“The reforms are needed whether you join or not, but it is that the WTO pushes us to make these reforms more rapidly.”

"I think it will be their (the government's) biggest folly if they don’t sign on to the WTO.

"It is a fact that there is a whole group of laws we must change and policy changes we must enact. For example, with trademarks you can get trademarks approved in the United States of America (USA) at a fixed cost, in record time and be given an estimated time that you would be given an answer on whether your application for a trademark would be granted or not. But you can’t do that here in The Bahamas. Trademarks themselves are very valuable to any business. “

Leonard told Tribune Business; "If we don’t sign on to WTO you can kiss your middle class goodbye and watch the standards of living drop further and further

“Because of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and Laing mentions this, we now have a Standards Commission. For example we have persons in The Bahamas who say they grow organic eggs, but where is their certification? How am I to tell if these are in fact organic eggs and not filled with chemicals?”

"The WTO drives standards. We talk about tourism being the biggest market, but if you don’t have the standards it is had to get into it.”

Leonard rejected fears that the Bahamas would be invaded with foreigners and foreign workers trying to displace Bahamian. “You are not getting any freedom of movement with the WTO. If that were so, you wouldn’t have people lining up at the border of the USA, who is also the biggest member of the WTO. You simply can’t be let in that easily," he said.

“There is, however, going to be easier entry for professional people wanting to come in.”

But Leonard insisted: “We can compete with the foreigners - there are thousands of Bahamians working in other places around the world from the Middle East to Asia to North America and Europe. They didn’t get their jobs because immigration was holding them up.”

Leonard also said he does not understand Super Value owner, Rupert Roberts’s objection to WTO: “I haven’t got a clue where Rupert Roberts is coming (from). I don’t understand why he is objecting to it. I don’t see a downside,” he said.

Leonard gave an example of how Bahamian companies have won out against foreign competition in The Bahamas, in the example of how Mr. Roberts’s own Super Value chain - when they bought one portion of the former City Markets grocery chain once owned by the American supermarket chain Winn Dixie and another Bahamian supermarket chain, Abaco Markets Limited (AML) bought the other portion.

Leonard also gave example of where the former petroleum dealer, Texaco, was replaced by another, Rubis, where “Rubis is now owned by the Bahamian oil and petroleum distributor, Freeport Oil Company Limited (FOCOL) and they put out Texaco.”

Leonard also dispelled fears the Bahamas not produce anything. “People are afraid that The Bahamas does not produce anything. But financial services is something we produce as well as hotel and tourism is something that we produce.”

“Right now there is nothing that can stop the USA from slapping on a tax for people who are departing to the Bahamas, but they can’t do it to Jamaica or Barbados or Trinidad or any other country in the western hemisphere because of those countries having WTO.”

Leonard also gave an example of how a company in Grand Bahamas that he declined to name, “had a contract to ship their product to Mexico, but the Mexicans realized that The Bahamas was not a members of WTO so they increased the import duties on it, leading to the contract being cancelled and the planned expansion in the Bahamas was cancelled and therefore the additional employment in The Bahamas was never realised.

Leonard noted that employment in the manufacturing sector gives better salaries than that in the tourism sector.

Leonard also gave an example of when the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) crunched down on The Bahamas in the early 2000’a where we had “a massive departure in head offices from The Bahamas that left to countries like Barbados and other WTO member countries in the region.” Leonard further said “they left for other WTO member countries in the region because the OECD could not strong-arm those countries the way they did The Bahamas.”

“We must get the fact that we must reform our laws. So you can get a standardisation of business that is comparable to the rest of the world,” Leonard ultimately said.

Comments

ohdrap4 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Let's sign an evacuation order for this guy and evacuate him to Ragged Island, where communication is scarce.

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John 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Even Zhivago Laing, in his arrogance, knows everyone is watching the BREXIT to see what happens with that and what happens to Britain after it leaves the EU. Will it become another Haiti. Will it be shunned and scorned by the rest of Europe and even the United States and Canada? There is no need to rush into an organization where the exits may be blocked or too narrow to exit in the same condition and independence you entered into it. Everyone is trying to strengthen their boarders not weaken them, even with trade. Carey Leonard needs to take a chill pill and relax.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Carey Leonard is somehow on Red China's 'payroll' for him to be constantly talking all of this foolishness.....he's the type of lawyer who would value dollars stuffed in his pockets by Red China more than his loyalty and patriotism as a Bahamian to the Bahamas and his looking out for the interests of his fellow Bahamians.

Joining the WTO would put the Bahamas right where Red China wants us to be put - fully under their control with zero benefits for the Bahamian people as is usually the case for smaller nations conned into joining the WTO to do Red China's bidding.

Why doesn't Carey Leonard just come right out and tell us how many of his clients are connected in someway to Red China? I will tell you why - He's nothing but a handsomely paid and seriously conflicted mouth piece for Red China.

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sealice 3 weeks, 2 days ago

This fool is only thinking about lining his pockets not the 1,000's of Bahamians (myself included) that will lose their jobs when the employment market is flooded with cheap labour.

Bahamians are tired of listening to Lawyers you all change into LIARS way to easy.....

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Dawes 3 weeks, 2 days ago

WTO does not mean free movement of people. If it did then the US would not be able to say no to other WTO members citizens coming in (Haiti, Mexico and pretty much everywhere else except here).

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ThisIsOurs 3 weeks, 2 days ago

WTO does NOT mean free movement of labour, true..BUT what they consistently fail to mention are that OTHER "reforms" they have already passed and will continue to pass to neatly take care of that. They've already put into place a policy that allows ANY Indian national with a US, British or Canadian visa to enter the Bahamas for work without a work permit. Now their argument will be well we need those guys for the high tech jobs...nevermind that they spoke about creating high tech jobs for Bahamians and who's to stop the Indian maid with a Canadian visa from coming as well?

The half isn't being told

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jamaicaproud 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Well USA has its own rules. So under this globalist setup the Bahamas would be inundated with cheap labour from Asia. This would have you begging for Haitians?

These deals decimated trades such as dress makers, and tailors in Jamaica. It raised the import bill for cheap food imports and almost wiped out farmers. And if it were not for stiff resistance they would have flooded the place with Hotel workers from the DR etc.

These things are bad for small economies.

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Porcupine 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Thanks for these points. All true.

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sealice 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Leonard also said he does not understand Super Value owner, Rupert Roberts’s objection to WTO: “I haven’t got a clue where Rupert Roberts is coming (from). I don’t understand why he is objecting to it. I don’t see a downside,” he said.

It's because you are a liar lying about your reasons .... just come out and say you want more easy money all lawyers do..... Mr. Roberts clearly stated his reasons in the papers on numerous occasions. In fact i think Bahamas Press and the Punch carried it also because it spoke to so many hard working Bahamians....

Bey you think no one realizes you are the mouth piece for Fred Mitchell when he's gone?? You like the gubmint people dem tink we stupid??

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BahamaPundit 3 weeks, 2 days ago

The honest truth is this country is in "free fall." From the loss of offshore financial services due to OECD blacklisting, which demolished our international banking prestige to the recent Hurricane Dorian, which wiped out our high rollers' yaucht haven in Abaco. We have lost a huge amount of reputational capital in a very short time. There is no doubt that something must be done to deliver The Bahamas from sinking into failure. What that something is, I do not know. Would the WTO help? Anything is worth a shot. We are looking at failed state status folks. This hurricane did far more damage to The Bahamas' fiscal sustainability than we even realize at this time. The Image of the Bahamas has changed in the international imagination from paradise to horror show. The status quo is no longer acceptable, or we are headed to downgrade after downgrade, recession after recession.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 1 day ago

WTO will never be worth a shot, under any circumstance.

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Porcupine 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Carey, I wonder what planet you are living on? The Bahamas could simply do better in everything they do, and then people would be beating at our door for what we offer. Isn't that how you were raised? Financial services? Can you honestly, from your ivory tower, not see what financial services has done to this world. Financial services produce NOTHING of value for humanity. Except a fat paycheck for lawyers, and other paper shufflers, who also honestly produce little of value to humanity. Harsh, but true. Quit looking for the easy fix. Until we improve our job skills, our educational system, our productivity, and perhaps if we were a bit more honest in this country, we would go somewhere. WTO will not help improve any of these standards. We must do it ourselves.

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BMW 3 weeks, 2 days ago

You hit the nail on the head!!!

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BahamaPundit 3 weeks, 2 days ago

The question is: will we ever do it ourselves? What if another CAT 5 hurricane hits New Providence next year? I have been the biggest critic of WTO. I believe we must get our house in order first. But what if we never get our house in order? The Bahamas needs a new leverage strategy moving forward. Abaco was a yachters' paradise, and Baker's Bay was creaming it. Then, hurricane Dorian hit and all of that is gone. Where do we turn from here? If only Minnis would pass the Freedom of Information Act and campaign finance reform, which he for some reason refuses to do, I would be willing to give WTO a chance. WTO is not terrible, if you have the right expertise and you negotiate awesome accession terms. I do not have faith in the negotiation skills of The Bahamas' negotiation team, but if I did, then I would definitely be interested in considering WTO. No more propoganda please: both the pros and cons would need to be freely discussed and a comparitive study on its impact on other undeveloped, small economies. The Bahamas needs something big!!! It has too much debt to do nothing, or it will default on its loans. If we had no debt, as in our nation's past, hurricanes posed little problem, and we relied on our British compatriots. Now we are 8 billion in debt and an independent country, we must do something to energize our economy.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 1 day ago

You obviously believe you will somehow benefit from the Bahamas joining the WTO whereas the vast majority of Bahamians know they would be on the losing end in a very big way.

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BahamaPundit 3 weeks, 1 day ago

So how would you suggest The Bahamas deal with its cratering economy due to Hurricane Dorian and future global warming threat? Honestly, I respect your opinion greatly.

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TheMadHatter 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Excellent points. At the moment, I am against WTO for the Bahamas - HOWEVER the points made by Mr. Leonard are the FIRST TIME anyone has said anything positive or given any kind of concrete information about how WTO would help us. Defending against the OECD would have certainly been good. We have been playing silly bank games for over ten years now. Every time you turn around, you need something else to open a simple bank account. I moved from one island to the next about a year ago and had so many issues banking that I decided to go in and go through the LONG process of transferring my account to the new island. I thought that was worth it because now everything would work smooth. NO I WAS WRONG. I had an issue with my atm card a few weeks later, and needed them to send a new one. Guess what? It had to be send to the first island because "they were the issuing bank." I was like, "Are you kidding?" I just brought in a DNA sample from the dead great grandmother 5 weeks ago (had to dig up her grave at 3am one night) in order to change my account here and now you're saying there is still SOMETHING in that computer tying me to the original island where I still cant receive direct service? Sure enough. There was. They had to call and make special arrangements for the overnight bag to be re-routed here. This is the kind of outright stupidity that prevails everywhere you turn in this country - and at the end of the day IT COSTS US ALL a lot of money. My time (just like anyone else's) is valuable. If we are all standing around for a few hours out of each week being engaged in lunacy like this - which is non-productive - that adds up to a WHOLE LOT of unproductive hours. Those zero dollar hours affect our GDP bottom line. They cause us not to have tar to fill pot-holes and that causes us to have to by CV-Joints to fix those car steering mechanisms unnecessarily because they keep hitting pot holes (as just one example.). There is just TOO MUCH nonsense in this country at every single point - and if WTO can fix all that without taking away "our birth right" - then I would agree with it. The problem is - NOBODY will provide a TRUE list of all the pros and cons of the damn thing without including their own personal bias and trying to rig the game. If Bahamians at large, and the chambers of commerce and others can be given the real information then we can make a real decision based on facts. So far, all I've hear out of Laing is a bunch of fluff - completely void of facts. He huffed and puffed about a year ago and said he was going to provide some kind of list of something-or-other - but I don't remember ever seeing it come to light. Darkness. Sweeping under rugs. Avoiding facts. If those were sports in the Olympics, Bahamas would get all gold medals every four years.

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jamaicaproud 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Anything to do with WTO leads to breaking emerging countries industries. It demands small countries removing tarrifs that protect local industries. So it messes up the honey man, the furniture man, the company that makes beer, juice etc.

Then there is Amnesty. Whenever you see Amnesty you see LGBT right behind it. Look around your country, you will see these NGO run by pseudo intellectual locals. Funded by European Human rights. Which is why Police must do right. They will start pointing the flaws of Police, they beat this one, shoot this one, harass this one, crime will spiral, because the Police will be afraid to engage Criminals. Crime will spiral then the globalist will say, hey see black people can't run a country then they start attaching many conditions to lend money.

This playbook was played in my country, don't let it happen in the Bahamas. Their mouthpiece is always some well to do guy like this lawyer fellow who will not be affected when chaos takes over.

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proudloudandfnm 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Carey Leonard is a good man, honest and trustworthy as can be. I don't consider myself an expert on WTO, but if Carey says it's good for us I believe him. I also like the idea of eliminating duty. As for foreigners coming in to take jobs, please, I lived in NY for 7 years, SC for 4. I worked hard and I got the success I wanted. Let them come, if I can compete in NY I can most surely compete in my home country....

I say all the objections are from folks who can't compete, folks who want status quo. Scared of change. I am not. Bring it....

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 1 day ago

You can't be talking about the same Carey Leonard many of us have come to know over the years. And how do you like the job our financial sector did in competing against the taxing authorities of the OECD countries on their very uneven palying field with goal posts moving against the Bahamas at all times? Moral of the story....tell all of these international organizations with their evil agendas to go fly a kite.

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proudloudandfnm 3 weeks, 1 day ago

I've known Carey for years. He is an honest, good human being. Period.

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ThisIsOurs 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Everybody acts in their own best interest even honest people. The key question is whether their interest lines up with yours and the majority struggling population. As to being afraid of competition having a country where you and two others are "ready" is a recipe for disaster. You see BTC?

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The_Oracle 3 weeks, 1 day ago

More Bahamian xenophobia, with arm chair quarterbacking. If any of you have read even 5% of the working documents i'd be surprised. As to the negotiation team, I agree, incompetent at best starting with Mr. Laing. However the initial team fired by Ingraham and Laing was competent. Either way we in the Bahamas had better clean up our act or we will suffer either way, and we have been in ever increasing measure.

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