Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Caribbean Basin Initiative to Have Local Impact

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Caribbean Basin Initiative to Have Local Impact

Article excerpt

Jacksonville is anticipating to reap benefits from the upswing in international commerce as the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which further liberalizes trade between the United States and that part of the world, goes into effect Oct. 1.

Intended to put Latin America on par with Mexico, which is enjoying growth in trade as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the initiative allows more products from the Caribbean to enter the United States duty-free.

Efforts to revitalize the Caribbean economy began in 1982, when President Reagan approved preferential tariff and quota provisions for the 24 countries that make up the Caribbean. The number of duty-free goods has been increased over the years, and now the region enjoys a trade status on par with Mexico.

President Clinton signed legislation in May that gave Caribbean countries willing to prepare to become parties to a free-trade agreement with the United States treatment equivalent to that accorded to NAFTA countries, Mexico and Canada.

With more imports from the Caribbean entering the United States, Jacksonville is poised to become a gateway for those products -- and an exit point for products going the opposite way.

"This is something extremely good for us," said Richard Bruce, a maritime marketing director at the Jacksonville Port Authority. "We now have an opportunity to build a lot of business."

He said one of the countries with the fastest rate of growth in the Caribbean is the Dominican Republic, which exports a lot of garment and medical supplies to the United States. Most of those products are shipped through Jacksonville.

Another island with a fast-rising economy is Puerto Rico, which last year exported 2.7 million tons of cargo through Jacksonville, the most by any country in the world. It easily outdistanced everybody in the amount of containerized imports and exports from Jacksonville last year. …

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