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Buchanan Opening Statement at Subcommittee Hearing on The Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act: Considerations for Renewal

September 10, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade Vern Buchanan (R-FL) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee Hearing on The Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act: Considerations for Renewal.

Before the start of today’s hearing, Rep. Buchanan and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer. CLICK HERE to read the full letter.

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this timely and bipartisan hearing. Preference programs have been an important part of U.S. trade and development policy for more than four decades. With the preferences for the Caribbean Basin set to expire in less than three weeks, this hearing is an important opportunity to focus on why these programs, and CBTPA in particular, serve a range of U.S. interests, including by raising standards in beneficiary countries and providing affordable access to U.S. businesses and consumers to goods that they need. Thank you to our witnesses for taking the time to share your views with us. 

“As a Member representing Florida, which serves as a gateway to the Caribbean, I am keenly aware of the importance of our relationships with our neighbors in the Caribbean Basin. These countries may not have the largest economies, but 5 of the 8 of them are ‘top 50’ export markets for Florida. Florida exports around $400M of goods to Haiti alone each year. Overall, the United States exports over to 9 billion dollars to the region, with a trade surplus of over 4 billion. 

“America is stronger when we work closely with regional partners to raise standards and improve competitiveness. Our preference programs, including CBTPA, are important tools toward this end. I am eager to hear details from our witnesses about how the program advances U.S. interests in the region.

“In my view, all of our preference programs clearly serve the interests of the United States in several ways. First, they advance our interest in helping developing countries grow and create more opportunities for local workers and entrepreneurs in a pro-market way. 

“Second, preference programs help export our values and raise standards through enforcement of the eligibility criteria, such as protecting internationally recognized worker rights, providing fair market access to U.S. exporters, and respecting intellectual property. Access to preferences is an important incentive for our trading partners to respect these principles or risk jeopardizing their benefits. And they know that adopting these standards make them more attractive to investors and growth opportunities.

“Third, preference programs serve our interests by providing American consumers and businesses access to goods they need at a competitive price, thanks to tariff savings. Moreover, in the case of CBTPA, U.S. cotton, yarn, and textile producers benefit from the rule of origin that requires use of U.S. inputs to qualify for benefits.

“My background is in business, and I know well that business success is dependent on minimizing uncertainty. Uncertainty is compounded by COVID-19 for many of my constituents and their partners in developing countries as they seek to make solid long-term business decisions. When we, as policymakers, reduce uncertainty, we help businesses take risks and make decisions, especially long-term investments. Renewing the program this month before it expires is a smart, common-sense way to reduce uncertainty, both for Americans who rely on the program to support exports of cotton or yarn, as well as those who rely on integrated supply chains to provide apparel and other finished goods at a competitive price. Uncertainty about if and when CBTPA will be renewed is not good for jobs in the United States or the beneficiary countries – nor would it advance our development goals. 

“For similar reasons, I strongly support renewing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) at the same time that we renew CBTPA. GSP is our largest and oldest preference program, with 119 beneficiary developing countries around the world. In 2019, Americans saved more than a billion dollars of their hard-earned money, including almost forty million dollars in my home state of Florida, thanks to GSP. GSP is set to expire only three months after CBTPA – and given our recess at the end of this month for the election and the uncertainties of the lame duck session, GSP’s expiration is effectively the same as CBTPA’s. Renewing GSP now would reduce uncertainty and support jobs at American companies that rely on the program, many of which are small businesses. 

“Mr. Chairman, I’m glad to say that this is not a partisan issue. I know that we both support our preference programs and want to protect the value that they bring, both for Americans and for partners in beneficiary countries. Let’s work together to renew both CBTPA and GSP in the near future.

“Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for calling this important hearing, and I look forward to the testimony from all of the witnesses.”

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