The government yesterday said it was aiming to secure almost $9m worth of annual Bahamian exports to the United Kingdom (UK) by ratifying a trade deal before year end.
Cabinet ministers and trade officials met with representatives from the British High Commission in Nassau earlier this week to progress talks aimed at securing - and expanding - access to the UK market for Bahamian exporters
This will be secured by The Bahamas’ ratification of the CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which was signed in London in 2019 by this nation and other Caribbean states.
This agreement was made necessary by Brexit, or the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU), which means it is no longer bound by that bloc’s separate EPA trade deal with The Bahamas and wider region.
The meeting was hosted by the Elsworth Johnson, minister of financial services, trade and industry and immigration. Others present included Carl Bethel QC, attorney general; Deborah Watson, director of financial services; and the newly-appointed director of trade, Brickell Pinder. Sarah Dickson, British High Commissioner, was accompanied by Jerusa Ali, political attaché, on the UK side.
The UK EPA contains the same tariff and services commitments that were negotiated initially in the CARIFORUM-EU agreement to which The Bahamas remains a party. It commits the UK to provide immediate duty-free, quota-free access to the UK market for Bahamian exporters.
Data from the UK’s Revenue and Customs Department showed trade between The Bahamas and UK amounted to £370m in 2017. In 2018, Bahamian exports to the UK were valued at $8.7m, making the UK the fourth largest market for Bahamian exports, according to The Bahamas’ Department of Statistics.
High commissioner Dickson said: “It was excellent to be able to discuss the trade relationship between the UK and The Bahamas. Both countries’ private sectors will need a strong government focus to support business in these unprecedented times. I know the partnership agreement is one step towards increased bilateral trade.”
The government is seeking to complete the domestic ratification of the CARIFORUM-UK EPA by December 2020. It will engage in in-depth discussions with the UK’s regional trade team in upcoming weeks. Bahamian business owners will be able to attend virtual events to provide input into these talks and inform the EPA ratification process.
“Facing the global pandemic, the accompanying economic crisis and the ongoing climate crisis, the government is looking to strengthen the trading relationship between The Bahamas and the UK,” said Mr Johnson.
“To help drive and expand this trade agenda, we have brought on a new director of trade. With her focus on stakeholder engagement and the inclusion of new sectors like the conceptual and creative economies, the ratification of this EPA will result in new opportunities for Bahamian businesses.”
The CARIFORUM-UK EPA was signed in London in 2019 by Ellison E Greenslade, The Bahamas’ High Commissioner to the UK, on behalf of the government.