Bahamas Chamber of Commerce Hosts EPA Seminar

Print
The SMESU Trade Unit of The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Caribbean Regional Negotiation Machinery (CRNM), and the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a two-day seminar to highlight the benefits and opportunities that are available to professional service providers through the European Partnership Agreement (E.P.A.). Seminars were held both in New Providence and Grand Bahama.

Over the two days, the seminar attracted over 150 professional service providers with an aim to expose and inform them of the opportunities for market access to the EU market. These benefits and rights of access for Bahamian services providers are a result of the now concluded negotiations for the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The seminar attracted a diverse group of participants, which is indicative of the wide reach of those persons that stand to benefit and be impacted by this Agreement.

Minister of State for Finance and the Public Service, Zhivargo Laing, addressed both days, opening the seminar at the British Colonial Hilton and welcoming the representatives from the CRNM. He commended the Chamber for hosting such a seminar, noting that the Bahamian business community needs to be educated on the impact that the E.P.A. will have on the way they do business and the opportunities that are being created. The session in Nassau was also attended by leading lawyers, including the chair of the Bahamas Trade Commission, Mr. John Delaney and Mr. Frank Comito, Executive Director of the Bahamas Hotel Association.

The seminar was facilitated by Ramesh Chaitoo, Head of the Services Trade Unit of the CRNM and Noel Watson, Trade Consultant to the CRNM. Seminar participants were provided with a general overview of the professional services element of the agreement and the opportunities for the further development of trade in services between The Bahamas, the members of Cariforum and the European Union. The presenters are rated among the best in region; Chaitoo was the lead negotiator for services during the three years of EPA negotiations.

Hank Ferguson, Director of the Chamber of Commerce's SMESU Trade Unit, noted, "We are grateful for the support of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce and were fully supported by the Minister of State for Finance and The Bahamas Trade Commission."

Ferguson added, "We were also particularly happy to be able to take this seminar, which is partially funded by a grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to the island of Grand Bahama. This engagement enabled the private sector there to be engaged in this important national discussion."

The forum addressed the new rules related to services and investment in the EPA and matters related to market access for professional service providers and the financial services within the agreement. The facilitators spoke to architects, engineers, lawyers, tour operators and other Bahamian service providers on the benefits and opportunities for Bahamians to do business in Europe

As the Head of the Services Trade Unit at the CRNM, Ramesh Chaitoo researches and analyzes bilateral, regional and multilateral trade policy issues and advises Caribbean governments on negotiating strategies and options regarding services. He was responsible for services and investment negotiations in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM states and the European Union. Chaitoo is a graduate of Carleton University, Cambridge University and the University of the West Indies.

Chaitoo urged the Bahamas follow the lead of its Caribbean counterparts and form a Coalition of Service Industries saying, "The Bahamian private sector needs to be better organized to take advantage of the opportunities being presented through the EPA. Professional service providers not represented by an Association will have a difficult time being recognized by governments and export development companies." He encouraged business persons to continue to educate themselves on the details of the EPA, citing resources like the CRNM's website as informative tools.

Noel Watson is Chairman of A-Z Information Jamaica Limited, which is a consulting and information firm operating in the Caribbean. His consultancy work on the removal of restrictions to the free movement of services and capital was important to the establishment of the CARICOM Single Market that officially came into being in early 2006. He received a Ph.D. in economics from Simon Fraser University in Canada.

When asked what he'd like seminar participants to take away from the event, a passionate Watson exclaimed, "Bahamians ought to take action now. Take advantage of the window of opportunity in the European market now."

By Leah Davis
Last Updated on Friday, 07 August 2009 06:28