US considers giving more Caribbean states duty-free access for goods

BASSETERRE, St Kitts, Thursday, October 15, 2012 – Several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries could benefit as the United States considers whether to designate them eligible to receive benefits under the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA).

Since 1983, the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) has granted unilateral duty-free treatment for imports of certain eligible articles from CBI beneficiary countries. Currently 17 countries and dependent territories receive benefits under the CBERA. Seven of these countries and dependent territories receive benefits under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA).

The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) in Washington, DC, said it is requesting comments no later than November 9 on the possible extension of trade preferences under CBERA, as amended by the CBTPA to countries not currently receiving them.

The USTR is considering whether to designate Aruba, The Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines as eligible to receive benefits under CBTPA.

It said while Congress identified The Bahamas, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Vincent for benefits under CBERA in 1983 and CBTPA in 2000, these countries did not request benefits under CBTPA until 2012.

The CBTPA is currently authorised through September 30, 2020, and the USTR said that it is considering whether to designate Curacao, St Maarten, and the Turks and Caicos Islands as eligible to receive benefits under CBERA/CBTPA.

USTR said that Congress had identified the Turks and Caicos as potentially eligible for benefits in 1983 but the country did not request beneficiary status until July 2012.

Separately, as a result of the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in October 2010, Curacao and St Maarten became successor political entities and have therefore requested the receipt of CBERA and CBTPA benefits.

Similarly, Aruba was designated as a CBERA beneficiary country as of January 1, 1986, upon becoming independent of the Netherlands Antilles but did not request CBTPA benefits until October 2012.

USTR said that interested parties should submit comments on whether these countries meet the appropriate eligibility criteria.

For CBERA, these include whether the country is communist, has nationalised ownership or control of property owned by a US citizen or corporation, fails to act in good faith in enforcing arbitral awards in favour of US citizens or corporations, and affords preferential treatment to the products of another developed country that could harm US commerce among other criteria.

It said that other measures include the country’s economic conditions, assurances of equitable and reasonable access to its markets and basic commodity resources, compliance with accepted rules of international trade, use of export subsidies, export performance requirements or local content requirements that distort international trade, contribution to regional revitalization through trade policies. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)