Trade between the U.S. and the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom)trade bloc increased by a decent 39 percent in the past three years, thanks largely to increases in petroleum exports to American Eastern Seaboard states from oil- and gas-rich Trinidad and Tobago the bloc said Tuesday.

Caricom released the figures showing a total of $21.8B in the past three years following a weekend review meeting of the joint USar-Caricom Trade and Investment Council in Guyana.

It said that trade has made a “positive contribution among our nations to the promotion of growth, employment and development,” noting that benefits have flowed to businesses, farm workers and consumers” in general over the period.

The two sides said that trade has also been enhanced because of the 1983 Reagan-era Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) allowing “unilateral duty free treatment of imports” of hundreds of products to the U.S.

Trinidad is one of the largest natural gas exporters to the U.S.

Since then, Washington has enacted the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) that allows a number of countries to benefit from an additional list of products entering the U.S. duty free but not all bloc members have qualified and been accepted.

The statement said that the U.S. “has agreed that upon request, it would begin a process to consider granting unilateral trade benefits under the CBTPA for Caribbean Basin countries and dependent territories that currently do not receive those benefits.”

These will include St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Dominica, Suriname and a few others, the two sides said, noting the jump in trade since 2009 from $15.7 to $21.8 billion, an increase of 39 percent.

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