The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has released its twenty-fourth biennial report entitled “Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act: Impact on US Industries and Consumers and on Beneficiary Countries“.

Seventeen Caribbean countries and territories currently benefit from duty-free access to the US market for many of their goods under the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), one of the major pieces of legislation under the Caribbean Basin Initiative.

The 150-page report dated September 2019 covers the period 2017-2018, but focuses mainly on data and developments from 2018.

Below are some of the key findings from the report:

The report found that overall, the US’ total imports from CBERA countries grew from $5.8 billion in 2017 to $6.1 billion in 2018. This translates to an increase of 4.7 percent. Turning specifically to US imports under the CBERA programme, those grew from $1.5 billion in 2017 to $1.7 billion in 2018, an increase of 9.1 percent. US imports under CBERA accounted for 27.8 percent of all imports from CBERA beneficiaries.

It should be noted, however, that these increases were primarily due to higher U.S. imports of methanol (mainly from Trinidad & Tobago) and of textiles and apparel (mainly from Haiti).

The report found that the CBERA’s impact on the U.S. economy “generally was negligible in 2017–18 and is likely to remain so”. According to the report, this is primarily because U.S. imports under CBERA comprise just 0.07 percent of total U.S. imports from the world.

By contrast, the report noted that CBERA “continues to have a positive impact on a number of Caribbean Basin countries”. It singles out in particular Haiti as the “the greatest beneficiary of CBERA trade preferences in recent years” due primarily to more flexible rules of origin for apparel that country enjoys compared to other beneficiaries.

It also found that CBERA has encouraged the development of niche product manufacturing in several other countries. The examples of polystyrene from The Bahamas and fruit juice from Belize were cited.

The full USITC report may be read here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

DISCLAIMER: All views expressed herein are her personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any institution or entity with which she may be affiliated from time to time.