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Bill Proposed to Extend Duty-Free Trade Privileges for Haiti

Congress may extend and expand the trade privilege programs fostering free trade for a quota of certain Haitian garments.

Earlier this month, Sen. Bill Nelson introduced a bill proposing the extension of the HOPE II Act (Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity Through Partnership for Encouragement), which is set to expire in 2018, and the Haitian Economic Lift Program, or HELP Act, slated to expire in 2020.

If accepted and ratified, the program deadlines would be extended until 2030.

The HELP Act was enacted in 2010 following the nation’s destructive earthquake in an effort to help Haiti sustain its recovery, and built upon the HOPE Acts of 2006 and 2008. The programs allow for Haitian garments to enter the U.S. duty free.

The extension is expected to open access to other manufacturing sectors like leather products and footwear, and ultimately create more jobs in Haiti.

Haiti’s textile sector accounts for 90 percent of its exports and employs roughly 36,000 people.

The country exported $854.3 million worth of textiles and apparel to the U.S. for the year ended December 2014, a 6.3% increase over the prior year period, according to recent data from the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).

Last month, the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), which supports renewal of the preference programs, published a post on its site saying, “Haiti faces many challenges, but we should ensure that these do not include uncertainty over its trade partnership with the United States. As we pause to recall the horrific disaster of five years ago, we must also lay the basis for continued economic partnership with Haiti by working now to extend these crucial Haiti trade programs well before their expiration dates.”