Imperial Power and Regional Trade: The Caribbean Basin Initiative


268 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88920-220-6
DDC 337.73'0729




Edited by Abigail B. Bakan, David Cox, and Colin Leys
Reviewed by Graham Adams, Jr.

Graham Adams, Jr., is a professor of American history at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.


In February 1982, President Ronald Reagan officially inaugurated the
Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). A major U.S. program intended to
bolster the economics of non-Communist Caribbean nations, CBI offered
bilateral aid, tax incentives to American business, concessionary trade
agreements, and military support. This book presents a series of
analytical essays that evaluate the effects of the American project.

In general, the critics find that CBI failed to achieve its stated
objectives. Devanand J. Ramnarine, for example, notes that while
Caribbean exports to the United States decreased after the start of CBI,
U.S. exports remained constant and America’s trade surplus increased.
In her study of Barbados, Jamaica, and Grenada, Catherine Hyett
demonstrates that not one of these countries benefited from CBI and that
all emerged worse off economically. In Trinidad and Tobago, Godwin
Friday asserts, CBI neither stimulated investments nor augmented exports
to America. All of these writers are critical of the economic and
military aspects of the American plan. As Hyett observes, Brian
Mulroney’s government established a similar scheme that led to equally
disappointing results. Canada may not have participated in the military
invasion of Grenada, but it later provided $800,000 in support of that
country’s police force.

Underlying the comments of these scholars is the assumption that it is
the responsibility of the United States to create prosperity for all
Caribbean and Central American nations, as well as to ensure their
political and social progress, without reference to American interests.
This raises the question as to how much the United States with its
finite resources and own serious domestic concerns, should bear the
burden of supporting foreign nations. America’s days as global police
officer and milch cow may be over. In their well-researched and
sometimes perceptive studies, the essayists represented here tend to
overlook these important issues.


“Imperial Power and Regional Trade: The Caribbean Basin Initiative,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,