Message to the Congress on Proposed Caribbean Basin Initiative Legislation

February 18, 1983

To the Congress of the United States:

Last year I proposed a major new program for economic cooperation for the Caribbean Basin. I am pleased to report that the aid portion of the Caribbean Basin Initiative was acted upon last year, and that the region has already reaped some of the benefits from the $350 million of this emergency assistance. However, while the House of Representatives also approved the trade and tax portions of this integrated program, Congress adjourned before favorable consideration could take place in the Senate. Today I am transmitting to the Congress for swift action the trade and tax plan as approved by a majority of members during the last session.

The economic, political, and security challenges in the Caribbean Basin are formidable. Our neighbors are struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing global economic system, while striving to develop or nurture representative and responsive institutions. These tasks would be burden enough for any nation, but they are also being forced to defend themselves against attempts by externally-supported minorities to impose an alien, hostile, and unworkable system upon them by force. These challenges must be faced foursquare. The alternative is further expansion of political violence from the extreme left and the extreme right, leading inevitably to further economic decline, and more human suffering and dislocation.

The economic crisis facing most of the Basin countries is acute. Deteriorating trade opportunities, worldwide recession, mounting debt burdens, growing unemployment, and deep-seated structural problems are having a catastrophic impact throughout the region. These developments have forced thousands of people to emigrate and have left even the most established democracies severely shaken. This is a crisis we cannot afford to ignore.

The emergency funding approved last year has helped these fragile economies cope with their mounting balance of payments problems. I must stress, however, that the trade and tax portions I am transmitting today are designed to improve the lives of the peoples of the Caribbean Basin by enabling them to earn their own way to a better future. At the same time, given the interdependence between U.S. and Caribbean Basin economies, this bill will also benefit the U.S. by expanding markets for our exports and hence improving U.S. job opportunities. It should also reduce the pressures of economically-inspired immigration into this country from the region.

Thanks to the cooperative, bipartisan spirit with which this program has been considered, and the changes that were made last year by Congress to ensure beyond any doubt adequate safeguards for domestic interests, I am hopeful that the Caribbean Basin Initiative will be acted upon with maximum speed by the Congress.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

February 18, 1983.