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FS Minister releases statement on new trade portal

The Minister of Financial Services Hope Strachan has issued a statement concerning the development of a trade information service portal. Read her statement here. 

Monday, November 28, 2016
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Here follows a press release by the Ministry of Financial Services:

The signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) by The Bahamas in 2008 was significant. The Agreement represented the first reciprocal albeit asymmetrical trade agreement negotiated by The Bahamas. The signing of the Agreement created the potential for exponential growth in trade for a country like The Bahamas as the Agreement provides companies with the opportunity for preferential access to the markets of the European Union for goods, services and investments.

In January 2014, a consultative mission from the Caribbean Development Bank visited The Bahamas to conduct consultations on the state of play on EPA implementation. From the consultation it was determined that a coordinated process is necessary to support key agencies in identifying required actions to develop a more conducive environment for private sector involvement in trade through EPA. Additionally it was determined that one of the mechanisms to ensure that The Bahamas’ obligations are met, is to build awareness of local stakeholder about EPA, and the benefits and opportunities afforded through EPA.

In view of The Bahamas’ National development Plan ‘Vision 2040’, the ambition to further diversify the economy and facilitate international business in a sustainable way, the Government believes that trade can serve as an important vehicle to diversify the Bahamian economy and the EPA is but one avenue to achieve this. However, many in the business community have lamented the fact that there is limited access to trade information which is a major impediment to developing trade as a third pillar of the economy. It is envisaged that the Portal will eventually connect the value chain development of BAIC and BAMSI to the portal, to facilitate international promotion and branding of the sponge, agri-business food and beverage sectors of the economy and products from the creative sector.

In pursuing growth opportunities available through international trade, the Ministry of Financial Services has been promoting a value added trade strategy which promotes The Bahamas as a crucial component in global value chains throughout North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

A value-added trade strategy is one that seeks to increase the value of a product at each stage of the production process occurring in different jurisdictions, utilizing both trade in goods and services. Such a strategy has the potential of leveling The Bahamas’ trade balances by simultaneously increasing our export of goods (namely the value-added product) and services (for example distribution, transportation and professional services).

In a heavily dependent services-based economy, the value added trade strategy not only increases opportunities for export of Bahamian services (i.e. professional services and transportation) but also increases opportunities for export of goods.
A value added strategy involves The Bahamas taking advantage of its proximity to countries which can supply raw or semi-processed materials for further processing within The Bahamas particularly Freeport.

The existence of the free trade zone in Freeport; The Bahamas’ geographical location in the Northern Caribbean with accessibility to North, Central and South America increases its viability to become a trade hub for the hemisphere. The presence of the container transshipment terminal in Freeport also strategically positions The Bahamas in the global value chain. The establishment of a Trade Information Services (TIS) Desk and electronic portal will go a long way in facilitating this strategy.

The Government has heard the cry of the business community that time is money. The Government recognizes that the internet is an essential tool in accessing international trade information, both domestically and internationally. Given our archipelagic make up it is an indispensible tool. The establishment of the Trade Information Portal by the first quarter of 2017, a joint initiative by the Ministry of Financial Services and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, will provide the business community with important national, regional and international trade information in one online platform The Portal will essentially create a “one-stop-shop” to access important national, regional and international trade related information for both (prospective) Bahamian exporters as well as foreign buyers interested in doing business with The Bahamas. Persons interested in obtaining trade related information on The Bahamas will now be able to access that information in one place thereby reducing the cost and time required to access trade related information and in so doing make it significantly easier to do business with The Bahamas.

Based on stakeholder feedback and the expertise of International Trade Centre (ITC) in developing trade related information and market analysis tools used by traders, governments and trade support institutions the world over, ITC will design the portal so that it will include export/import statistics, trade regulations (quality and standards, coding, certification, rules of origin), shipping information, company profiles and trade agreements. The Portal will provide important links to other Government agencies with websites containing important trade related data as well as international agencies with trade related data on The Bahamas. In so doing the Portal is expected to assist local businesses in identifying export opportunities in foreign markets while also assisting foreign businesses wishing to do business with local businesses.

It will also be an indispensable tool to prospective entrepreneurs who may wish to start a business with export potential but who may not know where to begin to gather the information needed. Currently, a Bahamian entrepreneur seeking to export his or her product to a foreign market will have to sift through an excessive amount of information to find reliable trade related information on The Bahamas or information that would guide him or her as to how to export that product. This makes doing business with The Bahamas difficult and expensive.

The establishment of a Trade Information Service Desk and electronic portal in partnership with The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), is an important public private partnership initiative which can assist in diversifying the accompany and create jobs for many including the youth of our nation. The Ministry of Financial Services is the principal government agency tasked with negotiating international trade agreements. The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation with Branches in Grand Bahama, Andros, Eleuthera, Long Island, Abaco and Bimini, works closely with the business community, the Government, Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s) answering direct trade enquiries both local and foreign. The creation of the Portal in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce is a natural fit for a public-private initiative, which would be welcomed by both the Government and the business community.

I am also convinced that this initiative will go a long way in achieving the Government’s goal of creating a SMART city to further enhance the value of The Bahamas as a global competitor.

The Central Bank of The Bahamas is actively seeking to reduce de-risking threats to The Bahamas by monitoring the impact of de-risking measures, and use the findings of its surveys to guide policy reform recommendations.

Expansionary fiscal initiatives and maintaining trade openness are needed to push the global economy out of today’s low-growth trap, according to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development’s latest Global Economic Outlook.

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