WASHINGTON, USA – Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Sanders, recently urged that the US government and Congress seek an extension of a waiver to allow Caribbean countries to continue to benefit from the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA).
Sanders testified before the US International Trade Commission which is investigating the impact on US industries, persons and the US economy of CBERA that was enacted in 1983.
CBERA is part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, launched by then US President Ronald Reagan and kept in place by successive US governments.
Sanders pointed out that CBERA and the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) which grants preferential access for Caribbean exports to the US market is only possible because of a waiver from the World Trade Organisation.
That waiver expires at the end of this year on December 31.
Sanders told the commission that, over the years, the US had benefited more from the existing trade arrangements than the 17 Caribbean countries for whom benefits were intended.
He testified that the US had enjoyed years of trade surpluses with the Caribbean countries. In 2018, the US benefitted by an excess of US$12 billion.
Despite this, Sanders argued that seven Caribbean CARICOM countries that are the principal beneficiaries of CBERA “would face serious financial challenges if they were to lose the preferential access from which they now gain.”
“The resultant weakening of the economies of these countries would have a harmful effect on the region by spill-over effects into neighbouring states, including the US,” he said.
The Antigua and Barbuda ambassador also called for CBERA benefits to be applied to trade in services. He explained that the economies of most of the CBERA countries are services-based, accounting for more than 75 percent of employment and 66 percent of total output.
Sanders concluded that: “Based on the inter-relationship between US and Caribbean industries, including banking, tourism, air and maritime transport, accountancy and auditing, health and education, a relationship could be developed exponentially, creating new jobs, new sources of revenue and increasing opportunities for prosperity.”
The commission took account of the ambassador’s testimony which will be included in its report to the US Congress and the president.