Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON — House Trade Subcommittee chairman Phil Crane (R., Ill.) has opened this year’s debate on broadening trade benefits to the Caribbean Basin Initiative countries with the introduction of his legislative package this week.
The Crane bill has the support of Rep. Sam Gibbons (D., Fla.), a long-term CBI parity advocate; Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), ranking minority on the House Trade panel, and Rep. Clay Shaw (R., Fla.). It is more lenient than one proposed last year by the Clinton administration in that it sets fewer conditions for the expanded benefits that would put the Caribbean on a par with Mexico.
The American Apparel Manufacturers Association supports the bill and predicts Congressional passage this year, said director of government relations Michael Gales.
“There is considerable support for giving CBI parity,” Gales said. “The North American Free Trade Agreement has created a problem for the CBI region.”
Under the plan, CBI countries would be granted NAFTA parity temporarily for six years to give them time to join NAFTA.
Parity would mean that imports of textiles and apparel from CBI beneficiary countries could enter the U.S. duty free. Currently, CBI exports made of components cut in the U.S. enter the U.S. under value-added duties.
NAFTA tariff and quota treatment would apply to items that meet the NAFTA rules of origin.
Unlike the administration’s bill, Crane’s measure does not require Caribbean countries to meet U.S. intellectual property rights regulations. Instead, his bill would require the CBI countries to make progress on the protection of intellectual property rights as well as eliminate barriers to trade. — Fairchild News Service