Because of its production limitations, the Caribbean has become a growing market for U.S. suppliers. As one of the most diverse regions in the world, the islands of the Caribbean attract a lot of visitors. With the development of tourism comes an increased demand for imported products from the U.S.—due in part to their perceived higher quality.




In order to boost their economic relations with the Caribbean and also stabilize the Caribbean Basin economy, the U.S. implemented the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), which is a collection of programs created to provide over a dozen Caribbean countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for most goods. The CBI represents a crucial element of U.S. and Caribbean economic relations, and encompasses over 5,000 tariff lines at the HTS8 level for U.S. products being exported to and imported from Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The charts below from the U.S. Census Bureau show U.S. imports and exports, from and to the Caribbean, by major product categories. The data shows a slight increase in agricultural trade between 2015 and 2019 (the last year that complete data was available).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

A list of factors must be satisfied in order to gain preferential treatment when trading agricultural products with the CBI region. Those factors are that the goods must be:

  1. imported directly from a CBI beneficiary country into the U.S. customs territory;
  2. solely the growth, product or manufacture of a CBI beneficiary country or be substantially transformed into a new or different article in the CBI beneficiary country; and
  3. a minimum of 35 percent local content of one or more CBI beneficiary countries (15 percent of the minimum content may be from the United States).

In 2018, CBI beneficiaries supplied $6 billion of the total U.S. Imports ranking 44th among U.S. import suppliers.

The Caribbean market is appealing to importers and exporters alike because of its close proximity to the United States, long-standing reputation of high quality products, and superior quality of service. The limited agricultural production capacity of most Caribbean countries has resulted in consumer-oriented products accounting for nearly two-thirds of U.S. agricultural and related product exports to the Caribbean, with poultry meat and products (excluding eggs), dairy products, prepared foods, beef and beef products, and snacks rounding out the top five export categories. On the other hand,  as Americans become wealthier and more ethnically diverse, U.S. imports from CBI beneficiaries have increased in recent years, including in products such as cocoa, coffee, guavas, mangos, papayas, yams and sauces, and other fruit preparations. As such, while member nations need not have the identical regulatory systems, they must employ equivalent sanitary and health measures that provide the same level of protection achieved domestically for imported goods. Data on the import values of edible products entering U.S. ports and their origin of shipment can be seen in USDA’s summary data on annual food imports.

Nonetheless, despite these advantages that member nations benefit from, those involved in the importation or exportation of agricultural commodities to and from the U.S., must adhere to U.S. regulations imposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). For example, on September 1, 2020 the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), U.S. Department of Commerce, and the USDA released a report addressing the Trump Administration’s plan to support America’s seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable producers. Those government agencies will establish an interagency working group tasked with monitoring seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable products, coordinate as appropriate regarding future investigations and trade actions, and providing technical assistance to Members of Congress in developing legislation on this issue. While CBI provides special rules governing emergency relief from imports of perishable agricultural products from beneficiary countries, the report establishes more serious enforcement could potentially affect U.S. Caribbean trade.

Diaz Trade Law provides a list of top 10 tips when importing and exporting to ensure maximum compliance with laws and regulations, starting with knowing your product and the HTS classification it falls under, the agency that regulates your products, and whether or not you need a license/permit to import or export. If you have questions regarding exporting and/or importing products to and from the Caribbean, contact Diaz Trade Law today.