Blumenauer Opening Statement at Trade Subcommittee Hearing on Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act: Considerations for Renewal
(As prepared for delivery)
Today marks the second virtual hearing for the Trade Subcommittee, and the first hearing we are holding on the Caribbean in this Congress.
I want to commend Representatives Sewell and Wenstrup for taking a leadership role on this program. Last year, they introduced a bill to reauthorize the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act which expires at the end of this month.
In today’s political climate it is important to highlight areas of bipartisan consensus. CBTPA has historically enjoyed bipartisan and bicameral support, in part because of the shared history and close ties the United States has with the Caribbean region.
About 13 million Americans have Caribbean ancestry and represent about 4% of the U.S. population. The Caribbean, in particular Haiti, played a crucial role in the American Revolutionary War where hundreds of Haitians fought for America’s independence.
And years later, Haiti would defeat the French and become the first Black Republic influencing the rise of abolitionist and anti-colonial movements all over the world, including in the United States. Haiti’s sacrifices and unyielding resolve continue to inspire millions.
Sadly, the United States under the influence of slave holding interests actively worked against this new republic. They were threatened by the specter of a slave uprising and Black independent governance. The United States was hostile to Haiti and undermined its efforts.
Rather than be a constructive partner to help this fledgling republic the United States interfered and more importantly failed to embrace the emergence of the first Black republic.
There are admitted problems of governance, poverty, and corruption. I believe some of the difficulties that Haiti experiences to this day our result of the failure of American policy.
That is why the Caribbean Basin Initiative is so important—it is an opportunity to help strengthen Haiti’s economy and our working relationship.
In 2010, after the devasting earthquake, I joined a bipartisan, bicameral delegation to Port-au-Prince to demonstrate the ongoing support of Congress to the Haitian people, and our commitment to work with the Haitian government to assist with reconstruction efforts.
Haiti is, by design, the primary beneficiary of the textile and apparel preferences under CBTPA and I am looking forward to hearing first-hand the impact the program has on the country. I am also eager to better understand some of the challenges, especially those related to labor and worker rights facing the country, especially in the time of COVID-19.
While CBTPA, in addition to the other preference programs in the region, have helped to create thousands of jobs and opportunities for workers and businesses in both the United States and the Caribbean, development challenges continue to persist in the region.
Like any good trading relationship, this one requires work on both sides – work to improve labor conditions, political stability, and expand economic development to all countries in the region.
As we consider the reauthorization of the program, it is important to evaluate its effectiveness in stimulating economic growth and in achieving broader development goals across various metrics. Exports from the Caribbean have increased for a second consecutive year in 2018; however, our preference program continues to be underutilized across different product categories and by various beneficiary countries.
It is my hope that this hearing will shed light on some of the impediments to broader utilization of the program, current development challenges facing the region, and spark a conversation on how best to tackle those challenges together in a manner that harnesses trade and development as we renew CBTPA.