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Bahamas Trade Minister Pessimistic Over FTAA Negotiations

by Amanda Banks,, London

21 November 2003

Speaking to the Nassau Guardian this week, Bahamian Minister of Trade and Industry, Leslie Miller has expressed doubt that the negotiations for the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) will be concluded on time in January 2005, citing wide differences between some of the 34 nations involved.

"In my humble opinion I don't see from talking to my counterparts in this hemisphere that the parameters of FTAA will be in effect by January 2005... It will not happen under the present apparatus that is proposed through FTAA," said Mr Miller.

One of the major stumbling blocks as far as Miller is concerned is the desire by the United States government to see its firms compete on an equal footing for private and public contracts within the FTAA area.

"When you take into consideration the large corporations that operate out of Florida alone, how do you expect the small construction conglomerates here in The Bahamas to compete on that scale?" he asked.

The Minister also referred to the gulf that exists between the US and other members in terms of agricultural subsidies, and criticized the trade bloc’s wide definition of what constitutes a ‘developing nation’, which puts large countries such as Brazil alongside small Caribbean states.

Mr. Miller argued: "We are supposed to be on par with each other as developing countries; nothing could be further from the truth."

The Minister’s argument is demonstrated by the brewing storm over where the FTAA headquarters should be located, with candidates including American cities such as Miami and Chicago, as well as Panama City, Cancun and the CARICOM nomination, Port of Spain, Trinidad.

"If you're saying that you're fair and you see your neighbours as equal, is it not time to allow this particular secretariat to be placed in one of the countries in the hemisphere instead of being dominated by the Americans again," observed Mr Miller.

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