The impact of NAFTA on the CARICOM countries: the case of Jamaica and its textile/apparel industry

Arlene A. Vincent-Mark, Clark Atlanta University


This study examined the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on the economies of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The study was based on the premise that the implementation of NAFTA would have negative consequences for the CARICOM economies. This was the prediction advanced mainly by political theorists, government officials and economic analysts primarily from the Caribbean region, who suggested that it would be in the best interest of both the economies in the subregion and of the United States, if NAFTA parity were granted to the former in order to alleviate or offset the problems they were likely to experience as a result of NAFTA.

A case study analysis was used to analyze the textile/apparel industry in Jamaica, the sector which was most vulnerable to the consequences of NAFTA. A number of indicators/variables were utilized to evaluate the pre- and post-NAFTA impact on the industry. Evaluations of these variables were made based on data collected primarily from government sources in Jamaica and the U.S., and from interviews conducted with Jamaican government and industry officials. The researcher found that there were existing problems within the industry in Jamaica prior to the implementation of NAFTA, that in some cases escalated after the passage of the Agreement. The conclusions drawn from the findings suggest that NAFTA could not be held accountable for the decline in performance of the industry, although it could have contributed to the worsening of the preexisting problems.

The results of the study suggest areas that the CARICOM nations need to pay particular attention to in their efforts to survive in an environment where trade liberalization and globalization will increasingly play an important role in global trade.