By Jeffrey Todd
Nassau Guardian Business Editor
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Leaders in The Bahamas have agreed in principle to form a joint business development alliance with Panama to boost bilateral trade and commercial relations.
Fresh off a delegation to Panama, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) seeks to further cement ties by holding annual meetings and engage in the frequent exchange of information.
The agreement, which has been obtained by Guardian Business, would also identify impediments and obstacles to trade and investment, assist in linkages and joint ventures and allow Bahamians to create "affiliate memberships" with the Chamber in Panama.
"The alliance would be co-chaired by the chairman for each section," the agreement stated. "The chairman and vice chairman, representing Bahamian and Panama sections, shall be appointed by the parties. Each side shall communicate to the other their designated chairman and vice chairman."
The imminent signing of a joint business development alliance could be the most tangible result of the recent delegation. Nearly two dozen Bahamians, representing shipping, logistics, construction, financial services and wholesale, joined the BCCEC, the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) and government officials.
Michael Darville, the minister of Grand Bahama, stressed the "commonality" between the two countries in regards the global trade industry.
Whereas Panama is well established in this area, Grand Bahama is only beginning to realize the scope of its potential.
Darville made special mention of the Panama Canal's expansion, due to be completed in 2014.
"Its relevance to international commerce has been reassumed and has drawn the attention of neighboring Caribbean countries, including The Bahamas, who are all looking for the best means to capitalize on the increased flow of ships. As demand is rising for efficient global shipping of goods, the canal is positioned to be a significant feature of world shipping for the foreseeable future," he said.
A number of other business opportunities were also explored during the trip.
Copa Airlines, now operating a direct flight to Nassau, was encouraged to start passenger and cargo opportunities in Grand Bahama. Improvement in airlift would bolster both the tourism industry and commercial activity.
Chester Cooper, the chairman of BCCEC, added that The Bahamas can learn from Panama through its formidable and successful arbitration center. The Ministry of Financial Services has already developed a council to focus on this area, he noted, and the country position as an "alliance partner" with Panama should only aid this endeavor.