The U.S. is beginning to crackdown on Caribbean trade bloc countries that have used American television and other programs without respecting copyright issues for decades. Officials warned many of the territories that they will be disqualified from preferential export trade schemes if they fail to comply, the bloc said this week

The issue is at the top of the agenda of a packed bloc trade ministers meeting scheduled for bloc headquarters in Georgetown, Guyana, next month.

After stern warnings from Washington in recent months, the bloc said that the Bahamas and Jamaica were among the first countries to scramble teams to begin negotiations on intellectual property rights with officials in the U.S. to avoid their countries being cut off or suspended from participation in the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, which allows goods from member countries to benefit from preferential treatment at U.S. ports.

St. Kitts, where a new government only came to power in the past month, has also been warned to get its act together or face CBTPA qualification problems.

Most of the 12 other bloc states that comprise the group have not taken any action to begin making local broadcast houses. Some hotel chains and other large commercial entities pay for rebroadcasting American television and cultural programs while reselling them and raising revenue through paid advertisements.

The bloc said the ministers will have a full discussion on the issue and will most likely take the advice of legal professionals, as the situation has been festering for years without any real action from either side, the Caribbean region in particular. Governments are concerned about this situation because exporters are the ones who will feel the brunt of any negative fallout from a cut or suspension of trade preferences under the scheme.

Officials said the likely recommendation from next month’s post-Easter meeting will be for countries to begin their own bilateral negotiations in a hurry to maintain their trade preferences, following the example of Jamaica and the Bahamas, both of which depend on boat and planeloads of American tourists and are known to prefer to maintain good commercial and other relations with the U.S..

Another key agenda item would have to do with Caribbean indigenous commercial banks complaining that counterpart institutions in the U.S. are not completing transactions on their behalf and are beginning to regard the Caribbean as a high-risk group to do business with. The matter was raised at the midyear leaders summit in the Bahamas last month. A subcommittee has been formed to investigate and treat with the developments.