The Bahamas - Foreign policy

Historically, the Bahamas has limited its foreign policy initiatives to the Commonwealth states, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations, and the United Nations (UN). Among other international organizations, the Bahamas is also a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank. It has strong bilateral relationships with the United States and the United Kingdom, represented by an Ambassador in Washington and High Commissioner in London. The Bahamas is party to thirty-one treaties and agreements with the United States, which cover issues such as defense, extradition, consuls, trademarks, and property.

The Bahamas has diplomatic relations with Cuba, although not with resident ambassadors. A repatriation agreement was signed in 1996 with Cuba, and there are commercial and cultural contacts between the two countries. In December 2002 Christie was the first Bahamian prime minister to make an official visit to Cuba. He said that the relationship with Cuba "ought to remain cordial but correct." The Bahamas also maintains a diplomatic mission in Haiti. In December 2002 Christie's government welcomed a Haitian delegation engaging in high-level talks over matters of mutual concern—illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

The PLP's platform on foreign policy issues includes maintaining the Bahamas strong position in offshore private banking, providing the best climate for foreign corporations to operate, welcoming legitimate foreign investment, increasing the joint effort with the United States to stem illegal activity (especially drug trafficking and money laundering).

Christie's government hopes to stimulate investment by welcoming foreign investors and by reducing red tape. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had placed the Bahamas on its blacklist of jurisdictions engaged in so-called harmful tax practices. In response, the former FNM government under Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, passed legislation that devastated the offshore finance sector. These laws damaged the Bahamas' reputation as an offshore finance center. Christie was a vocal opponent to the FNM's anti-offshore finance position; the Bahamas Supreme Court eventually declared some of these laws unconstitutional. Christie believed that these laws put the Bahamas at a competitive disadvantage compared to other offshore centers. His first Cabinet appointment, James Smith as Minister of State within the Ministry of Finance, was a strong signal to the business and banking community. The PLP government recognized the importance of meeting international standards. The Bahamas was removed from the OECD's blacklist in 2002, but the issue remains a sensitive one that the PLP government must address.

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