CBI/NAFTA PARITY PROPOSALS: A COMPARISON
CRS Report for Congress
CBI/NAFTA Parity Proposals: A Comparison
Vladimir N. Pregelj
Specialist in International Trade and Finance
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
The tariff and quota treatment of U.S. imports from Mexico under the North
American Free Trade Agreement has resulted in a distinct and increasing competitive
disadvantage for imports from the beneficiary countries of the Caribbean Basin Economic
Recovery Act (CBERA). To eliminate this disadvantage, proposals have been made to
extend to imports from Caribbean Basin countries preferential treatment equivalent to
that accorded imports of identical goods from Mexico. This report compares the
provisions of four such proposals: Title I of H.R. 984, Title I of S. 371, H.R. 1834, and
S. 1389 (including a measure identical to S. 1389, included as Title II in a substitute
amendment proposed in the Senate to H.R. 434 and passed subject to a restrictive
amendment). All four would accord, during a limited transition period, to imports of
certain products (primarily textiles and textile apparel) from CBERA countries unilateral
preferential treatment equivalent to that accorded to comparable imports from Mexico
under the NAFTA. This report will be updated as events warrant.
With the entry into force, on January 1, 1994, of the preferential tariff and quota
provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the earlier trade
advantage of the beneficiaries of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA)
over Mexico (until then a beneficiary of the generalized system of preferences) was
eliminated. The further gradual implementation of the NAFTA—to be fully completed by
January 1, 2008—has placed those countries in an increasingly disadvantageous
competitive position compared to Mexico.
As in three previous Congresses, proposals have been made in the 106th Congress
which would mitigate, if not eliminate, the adverse effect of the competitive advantage that
Mexico has gained and will continue to gain relative to CBERA countries. These
proposals would, during a limited transition period, accord to certain imports from
CBERA countries that are by law ineligible for the CBERA preference, tariff and quota
treatment identical with or very similar to (in “parity” with) that accorded to similar
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imports from Mexico under the NAFTA. They would also aim at the eventual accession
of all CBERA countries to a multilateral free-trade agreement (NAFTA or the proposed
Free Trade Area of the Americas - FTAA) by the year 2005, or the conclusion of an
equivalent bilateral agreement with the United States.
In the 106th Congress, four CBI/NAFTA parity proposals have been introduced:
United States-Caribbean Trade Partnership Act (Title I of H.R. 984, Caribbean and
Central America Relief and Economic Stabilization Act); and three measures titled
identically United States-Caribbean Basin Trade Enhancement Act (CBTEA): Title I of
S. 371, Central American and Caribbean Relief Act; H.R. 1834 (the Administration
proposal); and S. 1389. Of these, H.R. 984 has been ordered reported on June 10, 1999,
and S. 1389 has been reported favorably Sept. 16, 1999 (S.Rept. 106-160); the reported
language of S. 1389 has been included as Title II in Senate substitute amendment SP 2325
to H.R. 434 (not treated individually in this report), amended further and passed by the
Senate on November 3, 1999, as the Trade and Development Act of 1999 (including an
amendment denying any benefits granted under the Act to countries not enforcing the
standards of the ILO Convention for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor).
Although these measures differ in certain particulars, all four have in common a
twofold purpose: (1) unilateral extension by the United States to imports from the CBERA
countries, during a limited transition period (of varying length in each proposal), of
preferential trade treatment equivalent or similar to that accorded to imports from Mexico
under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and (2) the eventual
accession, by the year 2005, of all CBERA countries to a multilateral free-trade area,
including the United States (NAFTA, or the prospective Free Trade Area of the Americas
- FTAA), or bilateral free-trade agreements with the United States comparable to a
relevant multilateral one.
In all four measures, the focus is on imports of textiles and textile apparel, while three
of them also provide preferences for certain other import-sensitive articles,1 all of which
are at present ineligible for the CBERA preference, but benefit from the gradual
elimination in stages of all trade barriers under the NAFTA.
The countries benefitting from the program are called “partnership countries” in H.R.
984 and “beneficiary countries” in S. 371, S. 1389, and H.R. 1834. The term “beneficiary
country” is occasionally used in this report also to double as the meaning of “partnership
country” where applicable.
Beneficiary (or partnership) countries of the program are defined in all four
proposals as the current beneficiary countries of the CBERA, with H.R. 1834 and S. 1389
1 Defined in Section 213(b)(B)-(F) of the CBERA as footwear ineligible for duty-free status under
the GSP; tuna in airtight containers; petroleum or petroleum products; watches and watch parts
containing material produced in a non-MFN country; and articles subject to reduced (rather than
zero) duty rates (handbags, luggage, flat goods, work gloves, and leather wearing apparel ineligible
for GSP duty-free treatment). Duty rates on such articles have been reduced by 20% (but no more
than 2.5% ad valorem) below those applied on December 31, 1991.
also requiring the President to determine a country’s eligibility for the program by
considering a lengthy list of additional criteria comparable to some of those contained in
the NAFTA and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement.
Transition period varies among the proposals. In H.R. 1834, it runs from October
1, 1999, through June 30, 2001; in S. 1389, from October 1, 1999, through the earlier of
December 31, 2004, or the day FTAA or an equivalent bilateral trade agreement between
the CBTEA country and the United States enters into force; in S. 371, from October 1,
1999, through September 30, 2005; and in H.R. 984, from the date of its enactment
through the earlier of the date five years after its enactment, or the date of the CBERA
country’s accession to the NAFTA or a comparable bilateral agreement.
Preferences for textiles and textile apparel, the key category of articles addressed
in the proposals, also vary among them. In some instances, preferential treatment is
specifically made identical to that of imports under the NAFTA; in others, duty-free or
reduced-rate treatment is only functionally identical with or very similar to NAFTA
Tariff treatment specifically identical to that accorded to identical Mexican articles
under the NAFTA2 would be extended under H.R. 984 to articles “originating” (as defined
in the NAFTA) in a partnership country, while “nonoriginating” articles or those not
qualifying for other duty-free preferences provided by H.R. 984 (see below) would be
subject, within import quotas allocated among the partnership countries, to the same duty
rates that apply to tariff-quota imports for nonoriginating articles from Mexico. This
preference may be implemented by the President after consultation with domestic textile
and apparel industry and other interested parties.
Duty-free treatment without specific reference to NAFTA treatment would be
(1) H.R. 984, S. 371, and S. 1389 to
(a) apparel assembled from fabrics wholly formed and cut in the United States
from U.S.-formed yarns (usually referred to as a “yarn forward” situation) and entered
under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) subheading
9802.00.80 (production-sharing provision)3, or under chapter 61 or 62 (in H.R. 984, also
chapter 63), which would qualify for HTSUS 9802.00.80 treatment except for certain
additional marginal operations;
(b) apparel made with component parts cut in a beneficiary (partnership) country
from fabrics wholly formed in the United States from yarns wholly formed in the United
States (in S. 371 and S. 1389, also: assembled with U.S.-made thread);
2 Although most textile and textile apparel imports from Mexico already are duty free under
NAFTA, many are still dutiable at rates that are being gradually reduced to zero.
3 Under HTSUS subheading 9802.00.80, any imported article assembled (but not further
processed) in any foreign country from U.S.-origin component parts is not assessed any duty on
the value of such component parts, but is assessed import duty at the regular rate on the remainder
of its value. For the purpose of textile apparel, a component part (fabric pattern cut to shape ready
for assembly) is considered of U.S. origin even though it is merely cut in the United States from
(c) articles certified as hand-loomed, handmade, folklore articles (as defined);
(2) H.R. 984 and S. 371, to apparel knit-to-shape in beneficiary (partnership) country
from wholly US-formed yarns;
(3) H.R. 984, to articles made in a partnership country from fabric knit in a
partnership country from wholly U.S.-formed yarns;
(4) S. 371 and S. 1389, to textile luggage
(a) assembled from fabrics wholly formed and cut in the United States from wholly
U.S.-made yarns, and entered under HTSUS 9802.00.80; and
(b) assembled from fabric cut in a beneficiary country from fabric wholly U.S.-formed
from wholly U.S.-formed yarn, if assembled with U.S.-formed thread.
(5) S. 371, to non-U.S.-origin findings and trimmings (as defined) incorporated in
an assembled textile or apparel article, provided their value does not exceed 25% of the
cost of the components of the article.
Under H.R. 1834, duty reductions of up to 100% could be proclaimed by the
President for articles:
(1) assembled from fabrics wholly formed and cut in the U.S. from U.S.-formed
yarns (“yarn-forward” articles) and entered under HTSUS subheading 9802.00.80, or
under chapter 61, 62, or 63, which would normally qualify for HTSUS 9802.00.80 status
except for certain additional marginal operations (cf. 1(a) above);
(2) cut in a beneficiary country from fabrics wholly formed in the United States from
yarns wholly formed in the United States, and assembled with U.S.-made thread;
(3) identified under the prescribed procedure as handloomed, handmade, or folklore
No quantitative restrictions (import quotas) would apply under any proposal to any
articles qualifying for duty-free or reduced-duty treatment, except to those subject to
import quotas under H.R. 984 as “nonoriginating.”
All four proposals provide for bilateral emergency action (import relief) by the
President in case of serious injury, or threat thereof, to a U.S. domestic industry, by
imports from a CBERA beneficiary country, under the same rules and conditions as apply
to imports from Mexico under the NAFTA. All four authorize tariff action (imposition of
or increase in duty rate, tariff quotas); H.R. 984 and H.R. 1834 also provide for
Penalties for transshipment differ among the proposals.
(1) H.R. 984, S. 371, and S.1389 provide a penalty for the exporter or any successor
for willful illegal transshipment or willful customs fraud, by denying all CBERA benefits
for two years.
(2) Under S. 371 and S. 1389, a country not taking measures to prevent
transshipment may be penalized by a reduction of its textile and apparel quota by three
times the quantity of the transshipped articles.
(3) H.R. 1834 provides for a reduction of a transshipping country’s existing import
quotas by an amount determined by the President, and also defines “transshipment” as:
providing material false information concerning the country of origin, manufacture,
processing, or assembly of the article in question or any of its components.
Preferences for other import-sensitive articles, ineligible for basic CBERA4
preferences (zero, or reduced duty rate), are included in two proposals.
(1) H.R. 984 and S. 1389 authorize, for any originating import-sensitive article, tariff
treatment equivalent to that which applies under the NAFTA to identical articles imported
from Mexico; in instances where the NAFTA duty rate would still be in the process of
being reduced in annual stages to zero and the CBERA reduced rate would be lower than
the current NAFTA rate, the CBERA rate would apply.
(2) Under H.R. 1834 and S. 1389, the President would be authorized to proclaim
reductions of duties on imports from CBTEA beneficiaries up to the entire difference
between the applicable regular CBERA rate and the NAFTA/Mexico rate.
In all three cases (H.R. 984, H.R. 1834, and S. 1389), the reduction based on the
NAFTA rate would not apply to any article already accorded duty free treatment under
U.S. Note 2(b) to subchapter II of chapter 98 of the HTSUS.5 S. 371 contains no
provisions dealing with the duty rates on “other” import-sensitive articles, but such articles
continue to benefit from the duty-free treatment under U.S. Note 2(b) (see preceding
Modification of preferential treatment is provided for in three proposals.
(1) Under H.R. 984, the President may withdraw, suspend, or limit, upon a 60-day
notice and explanation to Congress, the parity preference for any article of a partnership
country, if he determines on the basis of his triennial CBERA report to Congress (see
below: Reporting requirements) the appropriateness of such action.
4 As mentioned above, these are defined in Section 213(b)(B)-(F) of the CBERA as footwear
ineligible for duty-free status under the GSP; tuna in airtight containers; petroleum or petroleum
products; watches and watch parts containing material produced in a non-MFN country; and
articles subject to reduced (rather than zero) duty rates (handbags, luggage, flat goods, work
gloves, and leather wearing apparel ineligible for GSP duty-free treatment). Duty rates on such
articles have been reduced by 20% (but no more than 2.5% ad valorem) below those applied on
December 31, 1991.
5 This provision authorizes duty-free importation of any article (except a textile or apparel article,
or petroleum or petroleum product) assembled or processed in a CBERA beneficiary country
wholly from U.S.-produced components, materials, or ingredients, and imported directly from the
country of manufacture.
(2) H.R. 1834 and S. 1389 authorize the President, under similar notification
conditions as above, to (1) withdraw or suspend any country’s designation as a beneficiary
of the parity preference, or (2) withdraw, suspend, modify, or limit the parity preference
with respect to any article of any country, if he determines such action appropriate upon
an evaluation of the criteria for the designation of a beneficiary country. It also requires
the President to modify (withdraw, suspend, etc.) a country’s eligibility for the basic
CBERA preference in the same manner in which he modifies (withdraws, suspends, etc.)
the country’s eligibility for the GSP for failure to comply with one or more eligibility
criteria common to both programs.
Customs procedures (including the requirement for certificates of origin) for
imports under all four proposals are identical and must be similar “in all material respects”
to the procedures applicable to imports under the NAFTA. An article’s qualification for
parity preferential treatment is, indeed, contingent on a Presidential determination that the
beneficiary country from which it is exported and/or in which materials used in its
production originate or undergo production, follows or is making substantial progress
toward implementing the relevant customs procedures of the NAFTA.
All proposals contain reporting requirements of varying frequency and scope.
(1) H.R. 984 requires a one-time report, based on a U.S. Customs Service study,
on the cooperation of other countries concerning circumvention (transshipment), to be
submitted by the U.S. Trade Representative to Congress by October 1, 1999.
(2) Periodic reports:
(a) by the President to Congress,
(i) under H.R. 984, a triennial (at present, annual) report on the operation of the
CBERA, requiring detailed information on various specific points, beginning no later than
one year after the enactment of the proposal; and
(ii) under H.R. 1834, by December 1, 2000, and every 3 years thereafter, reports
on each beneficiary country’s performance under the criteria required for its designation
as a beneficiary country;
(b) by the U.S. Trade Representative to Congress, under S. 1389, by December
31, 2001, and every 2 years thereafter, reports on each beneficiary country’s performance
under the criteria required for its designation as a beneficiary country;
(c) by the U.S. International Trade Commission to Congress and the President,
(i) under S. 371, a biennial (at present, annual) report on the economic impact
of the CBERA on U.S. industries and consumers, beginning September 30 of the year
following the year parity legislation has been enacted; no reports are required after
September 30, 2006;
(ii) under S. 1389, a similar biennial report beginning September 30, 2001; and
(iii) under H.R. 1834, a similar triennial report, beginning December 1, 2000;
(d) by the Secretary of Labor to Congress, under H.R. 1834, triennial (at
present, annual) reports on the impact of CBERA on U.S. labor, beginning on September
All proposals also contain definitions of relevant if somewhat different terms.