U.S. Trade Policy and the Caribbean: From Trade Preferences to Free Trade Agreements [Updated June 6, 2007] [open pdf - 330KB]
From the Summary: "For over 40 years, the United States has relied on unilateral trade preferences to promote export-led development in poor countries. Congressionally authorized trade preferences give market access to selected developing country goods, duty-free or at tariffs below normal rates, without requiring reciprocal trade concessions. The Caribbean Basin has benefitted from multiple preferential trade arrangements, the best known being those linked to the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) begun in the mid-1980s. Since then, the growing number of reciprocal U.S. free trade agreements (FTAs) in the region have effectively replaced preferential trade arrangements, signaling a shift in U.S. trade policy and raising questions with respect to the future of those mostly smaller countries still relying on trade preferences. This report discusses the evolution of U.S. trade policy toward the Caribbean, focusing on the implications of moving from unilateral tariff preferences to reciprocal FTAs. The U.S. Congress has approved multiple trade preference programs over the past three decades (production sharing, GSP [Generalized System of Preferences], CBERA [Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act], CBI II [Caribbean Basin Economic Expansion Act of 1990], CBTPA [Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act], and HOPE [Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement] Act of 2006). Each one amended trade rules and tariff preferences in ways designed to increase imports from CBI countries. Trade grew and many of the goals for development were supported. Evaluations of the benefits, however, suggested that they may not have been as robust as originally expected. Benefits tended to be concentrated in a few countries and products, often skirting industries with the greatest potential to stimulate exports. Also, the benefits of preferences are being eroded by multilateral trade liberalization and recently implemented FTAs."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33951
National Agricultural Law Center http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/crs/