Caribbean states ask U.S. to lift duty on more goods

Jamaica Caribbean countries are calling for a fundamental change in the Caribbean Basin Initiative, a trade scheme implemented by the Reagan Administration 14 months ago.

Several countries have argued that garments and footwear should be placed on the list of regional exports that can take advantage of duty- free entry to the United States offered by the CBI for the next 11 years.

Fears of damage to U.S. industry by a flood of cheap Caribbean products have kept garments off the duty-free list, along with leather goods and canned tuna.

Jamaican Trade Minister Hugh Shearer has told U.S. Government officials that there is no basis for fears of low-priced Caribbean garments and shoes harming domestic production. “The additional volume of imports into the U.S. market would not damage the American economy in any way,” Mr. Shearer said.

Richard Cheltenham, the Agriculture Minister for Barbados, claimed the U.S. Administration was reneging on a promise to allow more generous entry for Caribbean garments. Mr. Cheltenham said it was now time for the United States to deliver on its commitment.

The garment sector employs more than 20,000 people in the Commonwealth Caribbean, Mr. Cheltenham said.

The pleas are likely to be fruitless. Kent George, the U.S. Governent official in charge of implementing the CBI, indicated there would be continuing opposition to the requests for garments and shoes to be included. Caribbean governments apparently hope continuing pressure for changes will be as successful as earlier efforts. The U.S. State Department recently accepted Caribbean arguments that importers should not be required to prove the veracity of import declarations on CBI products.

Caribbean exporters argued that this would lead to divulging information that could harm their competitiveness.