Diplomat urges US to seek extension of WTO waiver for the Caribbean

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Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Sanders, has urged the US government to seek an extension of a waiver that allows Caribbean countries to continue to benefit from the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA).

CBERA, which was launched in 1983 by US President Ronald Reagan, is part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI).

While testifying before the U.S. International Trade Commission – which is investigating the impact of CBERA on US industries, persons and the US economy – Sir Ronald 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 Organization (WTO).  That waiver expires on December 31st 2019.

Sir Ronald told the Commission that, over the years, the US has benefited more from the existing trade arrangements than the 17 Caribbean countries for whom benefits were intended.

He also testified that the US has enjoyed years of trade surpluses, including a surplus of US $12 billion in 2018, with the Caribbean countries.

The Ambassador argued that 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 neighboring states, including the US,” he said.

He also called for CBERA benefits to be applied to services-based trade, and explained that most of the principal beneficiaries of CBERA are services-based, accounting for more than 75 percent of employment and two-thirds of total output.

Sir Ronald 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 ambassador’s testimony is expected to a part of the US Trade Commission’s report to the US Congress and US President Donald Trump.

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