By Jeffrey Todd
Nassau Guardian Business Editor
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Bahamas plans to form a business council with the Dominican Republic to bolster trade between the two nations.
Faced with low trade figures and minimal manufacturing, The Bahamas will invite members of the private sector to sit on the Joint Business Development Council in an effort to forge ties. The commitment from the Dominican Republic comes as top government officials visited the country this week on a formal delegation.
High up on the agenda was the elimination of rampant poaching by Dominicans in Bahamian waters.
Ryan Pinder, the minister in charge of trade and manufacturing, said the government has made serious headway on this issue. In fact, he believes the two countries can actually develop trade relations where The Bahamas exports its fish to the Dominican for mutual gain.
"We would like to see fisheries exporting to them. There is demand for it and we could create a bilateral agreement and regularize trade. The Dominican Republic could export construction supplies and agriculture for example," Pinder explained. "I discussed with the minister of trade how to trade and form a level of collective expertise."
The government has pledged to perform consultations over the next month with the private sector, identifying key industries that could provide the most immediate return.
Pinder told Guardian Business that the plan would not be to limit the size of such a council.
He envisioned representatives from both the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) and the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) playing a leading role.
The minister hoped that the framework could be created within a month.
According to a draft agreement, which has been obtained by Guardian Business, the council would be co-chaired by representatives from both countries. Each chairman would be assisted by an executive secretary, who arranges the organization of meetings and agendas.
Chester Cooper, chairman of the BCCEC, said the private sector relies on government to reduce trade barriers and put legislation in place. But it’s the private sector that drives actual business and commerce, he noted.
BCCEC has recently taken a leading role in Haiti to create meaningful exchanges in terms of trading goods or providing services.
“So in all of our trade missions we amplify the importance of these private sector linkages. They can be helpful not only in the establishment of cross-border joint ventures, but in assisting with due diligence in the respective countries,” Cooper added.
The formation of a Joint Business Development Council with the Dominican Republic is just one step for the Christie administration.
The government is seeking to enter into memoranda of understanding with a number of regional partners to facilitate trade and economic activity.
Following the Dominican Republic, Pinder spoke in Antigua at the second CARIFORUM conference on the international financial services sector in the Caribbean.
He highlighted the country's geographic location and tax environment as key factors in creating a manufacturing and trade hub to the Americas, connecting Europe, Asia and the Far East.
Pinder, whose primary portfolio is financial services, noted linkages between this sector and international trade.
"A country promoting a trade agenda as the access to the Americans allows for the natural expansion of the financial services sector coordinating it with industry linkage. As a dominant hub trade, many sectors of financial services can be attracted and developed to support this arm of our economic in international trade and industrial development," he said. "These include sectors such as international shipping insurance, commercial banking, investment banking, short-term loans that need to facilitate commercial transactions. These are viewed as legitimate financial services sectors that facilitate business, a position that is much more accepted in the international business and regulatory environment."
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian