The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) welcomed the introduction of legislation to extend the Haitian Hemisphere Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act and the Haitian Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act until 2035.
Companion bills have been introduced in the Senate and the House to extend these programs that aim to improve opportunities for the Haitian people through trade preferences designed to support manufacturing jobs in the apparel industry.
“Haiti is an important partner to the industry, both as a source of finished apparel and a market for American-made components,” said Steve Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “Haiti has experienced many hardships in recent years, from natural disasters to political unrest. Renewing these programs encourages companies to continue to work in Haiti and grow the industry there.”
Haiti is currently the 13th largest source of apparel to the U.S. market, representing 1.36 percent of imports by volume. For the year to date through October, apparel imports from Haiti increased 43.78 percent to 312.89 million square meter equivalents.
Key to the country’s growth as a sourcing partner has been the 1983 Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act and the amendments that were made to it via the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act, and the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act, AAFA noted.
In July, Haiti’s long-time effort to become a reliable apparel and footwear sourcing destination took another with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. This destabilized the country, leading to increased criminal activity and civil unrest. This was followed by a massive earthquake in April, killing hundreds and causing extensive damage.
Lamar said while a stronger industry is beneficial for the Haitian people, it also supports thousands of American jobs that rely on Haiti as a market for U.S.-made textiles.
CBTPA and HOPE established unlimited duty-free treatment for various apparel products, with certain restrictions regarding the source of the yarns and fabrics used in the apparel, and duty-free treatment for certain apparel up to certain annual quota levels, known as trade preference levels (TPLs). HOPE II and HELP expand these existing preference programs by allowing additional textile and apparel articles to qualify for duty-free treatment, as well as increasing some of the TPL quota levels.
In October, CBTPA, which has provided a structured system of textile and apparel duty preferences for certain countries, most notably Haiti, since it was implemented in 2000, was extended for 10 years.