Background

In its biennial report on the impact of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (as modified by the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act and the Haiti HOPE and HELP acts) the International Trade Commission found that in 2019 and 2020 the overall effect of this trade preference program on the U.S. economy continued to be negligible and the effect on beneficiary countries continued to be small but positive. CBERA has been in operation since Jan. 1, 1984, and provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for most products of 17 Caribbean and South American countries.

Imports. According to the report, total U.S imports from CBERA countries (with and without trade preferences) fell from $6.1 billion in 2018 to $5.6 billion in 2019 and $5.1 billion in 2020. The ITC largely attributed this decline, which came on the heels of increases in previous years, to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the other hand, U.S imports under CBERA increased from $1 billion in 2018 to $1.1 billion in 2019 and $1.2 billion in 2020. The ITC said the rise in 2020 was primarily driven by a higher value of U.S. imports of petroleum products from Trinidad and Tobago and most notably Guyana.

Apparel imports from Haiti accounted for 15 percent of U.S. imports under CBERA preferences (42 percent when including the HOPE and HELP acts). Apparel products from Haiti under the HOPE and HELP acts declined by 21.7 percent in 2020, again primarily due to disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Apparel imports from Haiti under the CBERA preferences and the HOPE and HELP acts represent 91 percent of U.S. imports from Haiti, with cotton t-shirts accounting for 28 percent. The remaining U.S. imports under the CBERA preferences were agricultural products (15 percent) and mining and manufacturing products (six percent).

Exports. U.S. exports to CBERA countries declined 3.3 percent to $13.9 billion in 2019 and fell another 20 percent to $11.1 billion in 2020. As with imports, the ITC said this trend was likely due to disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leading markets for U.S. exports to the CBERA region in 2020 were The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti, and Guyana, which together accounted for over 74 percent of U.S. exports to the region in 2020. The leading export categories included refined petroleum products; medical and pharmaceutical donations; rice; civilian aircraft, engines, and parts; wheat; and used vehicles.

Effects on Beneficiaries. Utilization of CBERA preferences varies significantly by beneficiary country. In 2020 imports under CBERA as a share of total U.S. imports from each country ranged from nearly zero (British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, and Curaçao) to as high as 93.4 percent (Haiti). In addition to petroleum and other energy-related products and apparel, products such as polystyrene (The Bahamas), electrical equipment (St. Kitts and Nevis), orange juice (Belize), and guavas and mangos (Haiti) were imported in significant amounts under CBERA tariff preferences.

Effects on U.S. In 2020 total goods trade between the U.S. and CBERA countries was $16.2 billion in 2020 and the U.S. tallied a goods trade surplus of $6 billion.

Copyright © 2022 Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A.; WorldTrade Interactive, Inc. All rights reserved.

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