Bush will seek return of CBI benefits
President Bush said Wednesday he will seek the return of Caribbean Basin Initiative benefits.
Bush, meeting in Washington with leaders from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) nations attending the Conference on the Caribbean, said he supports a modernized version of the agreement, which expired in 2005 and provided duty-free imports to the United States for specific Caribbean exports.
The meeting between the president and Caricom officials was the first of its kind in a decade. The United States and the Caribbean 'are becoming more than neighbors united by the accident of geography. We're becoming a community linked by common values and shared interest in the close bonds of family and friendship,' said Bush and Caricom leaders in a joint statement.
In addition to offering support for increased trade ties for the region, the statement said there should be increased cooperation in security and a common effort to promote stability in Haiti.
A new Caribbean trade agreement has also been endorsed by key Democratic leader Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who heads the House Ways and Means Committee.
A new CBI could face problems, however, in a Congress that has been slow to endorse new trade agreements.
Although the joint statement said improved security in the Caribbean is important to U.S. security, there were no promises of U.S. funding to help Caribbean nations upgrade security programs in countries where security costs have already increased sharply since Sept. 11, 2001.
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said in a speech at the conference that the high costs for increased security at Caribbean airports and seaports was simply beyond the economic resources of many Caribbean nations, according to a report in the Nassau Guardian.