THE Bahamas is CARICOM's top furniture importer, spending some $50 million or almost 25 per cent (one quarter) of the region's expenditure in this area in 2008, a report by the organisation's Office of Trade Negotiations (OTN) has revealed.
While the Bahamas is among CARICOM's furniture exporters, the OTN data showed that it accounted for just over 23 per cent of the region's $216 million in furniture imports for 2008, narrowly pipping Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago for top spot.
"The Bahamas was the top CARICOM importer of furniture in 2008, recording some $50 million in import spending," the OTN trade brief said. "Other CARICOM member states with significant furniture imports in 2008 were Jamaica ($49 million) Trinidad and Tobago ($47 million, Barbados ($25 million) and Suriname ($7.5 million)."
The Bahamas, though, was not among CARICOM's "most dynamic" furniture importers between 2001 and 2008, with the likes of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago seeing faster growth rates in their furniture import spending. Some $216 million in total was spent by CARICOM countries on furniture imports.
On the export side, Trinidad & Tobago accounted for some 64 per cent of the $9.1 million sales generated by the CARICOM region in 2008, with the remaining 36 per cent split between the Bahamas, Guyana, Barbados, Jamaica and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Barbados, the OTN report said, enjoyed the fastest growth rate in its furniture exports between 2001 and 2008, with annual expansion hitting a 19 per cent rate.
Meanwhile, Zhivargo Laing, minister of state for finance, confirmed to Tribune Business that the Government had put on hold plans to open an office in Geneva to help facilitate talks on this nation's accession to full membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The Bahamas currently has observer status at the WTO and, having submitted its Memorandum of Trade Regime to the organisation in April 2009, is now expecting to have its first meeting with the working party that will negotiate the terms of this nation's accession "after summer".
Confirming that Budget constraints had forced the Government to place the Geneva office plans on hold, Mr Laing told Tribune Business: "An office in Geneva is not mandatory for the WTO accession process.
"The economic circumstances do not now lend themselves to the setting up of that office, but that does not mean we're unable to move ahead to facilitate the accession process, as we are now doing. It would be helpful [to have the Geneva office], but is not mandatory."
As for the status of the accession process, Mr Laing told this newspaper: "It's moving forward. We are getting prepared for what we expect to be the first meeting after summer with the working party."
This 'working party' is the body that will negotiate with the Bahamas the terms of its WTO accession. Chaired by a Jamaican, its representatives will largely consist of countries that have an interest in trading with the Bahamas, such as the US, Canada, China, the European Union and nations from the CARICOM region.
Meanwhile, Mr Laing said the Government was continuing to monitor - and participate in - talks with Canada over the replacement trade agreement for the CARIBCAN accord.
"We're doing the same as the rest of the region. We've been following the process and attending meetings," the minister told Tribune Business.