The 23 independent countries of the Caribbean basin region together form the sixth largest export market for U.S. goods, totaling $19 billion and absorbing 2.7 percent of U.S. exports in 1999. However, the devastation of hurricanes Mitch and Georges in 1998 set the regional economy back. In addition, the U.S.'s signing of the NAFTA with Mexico in 1994 had caused Caribbean basin countries to lose the preferential treatment they had previously enjoyed.
The CBTPA, an expansion of the 1983 Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), sought to address those issues. In particular, the CBTPA extended preferential tariff treatment to textile and apparel products assembled from U.S. fabric that were previously excluded from the program. American policy makers hoped that this would encourage additional U.S. exports of cotton and yarn and U.S. investment in the region, thereby improving the global competitive position of the U.S. textile industry.
The CBTPA was also intended to encourage the diversification of CBI countries’ economies, viewed by American policymakers as a key step towards economic development that would decrease the region's dependence on aid and reduce illegal immigration into the United States as well as the trafficking of illegal drugs. American lawmakers also hoped that CBTPA would send a signal to the other countries of the Caribbean basin and elsewhere of American commitment to promoting trade-expanding policies.