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House Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Speed Haiti’s Earthquake Recovery

May 05, 2010

The House of Representatives today passed bipartisan legislation to help speed Haiti’s economic recovery following the devastating January earthquake that shattered the country’s economy.  H.R. 5160, The Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act expands duty-free access to the U.S. market for additional Haitian textile and apparel exports and extends existing trade preference programs for Haiti through 2020.  The legislation now heads to the U.S. Senate where it is expected to receive strong bipartisan support as well.

“We have heard a lot about the challenges facing Haiti: they are the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; they suffer from between 70-80 percent unemployment in the formal sector, even before the earthquake; and three-quarters of the population lives on less than $2 a day,” said Representative Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), a longtime advocate for Haiti and lead sponsor H.R. 5160. “We have heard little, however, about the important strides that the government and people of Haiti were making to promote economic growth and development prior to the earthquake.  Once the earthquake hit, it became clear that something needed to be done to help Haiti regain the footing that it had worked so hard to attain.  This legislation does that.  It is not a panacea for all of the new challenges that Haiti now faces, but it sends a clear message to buyers and investors that Haiti does not stand alone in meeting the challenges before it.  We, Americans, stand with Haiti.”

“The HOPE program has been an important element of the U.S.-Haiti trade relationship,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander M. Levin (D-MI).  “Through this program, the Haitian apparel industry was able to make significant progress prior to the January 12 earthquake. Haiti is the only U.N.-designated ‘least developed country’ in this Hemisphere, and jobs in the apparel sector were – and are – critical to the aim of helping Haiti lift itself off this list. While all of this progress was good for Haiti, it was also good for the United States.  As the Haitian apparel industry gained strength, the greatest area of growth was in apparel made with U.S. textiles and yarns. Today’s bill helps continue this progress so that we may grow together to overcome the tragedy of this earthquake.”

“I want to thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for their work on this legislation,” said Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI). “Through bipartisan, bicameral cooperation, we have been able to craft legislation that will deliver critical economic assistance to help stabilize Haiti while recognizing concerns of U.S. stakeholders.  I urge the Senate to quickly pass and the President to sign this bill.” 

Building on the existing Haitian Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) program, The HELP Act will help create sustainable, good-paying jobs in Haiti’s apparel industry by expanding tariff benefits for certain Haitian textile and apparel exports to the United States.   Senate Finance and House Ways and Means leaders worked closely with the U.S. retail and textile industries to craft the HELP Act and both industries have expressed their support for the bill.

In February, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced the Plus One for Haiti program, which calls on the U.S. apparel industry to source one percent of its apparel imports from Haiti.  The HELP Act supports that goal by making it more cost effective for U.S. companies to import Haitian textiles and apparel. 

Earlier this year, Representatives Rangel and Camp introduced legislation (H.R. 4462) to allow individuals making donations to Haitian relief to claim the deduction on their 2009 tax return.  Congress also passed legislation (S. 2949) to aid American citizens returning home after the earthquake.  Both bills were unanimously approved by Congress and have been signed into law.

A summary of the HELP Act follows below.  Click here for text of the legislation.

Summary of the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act of 2010

  • Extends CBTPA and HOPE – The bill extends the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) and the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE) through September 30, 2020.
  • Expands the Wholly Assembled List – The bill provides duty-free treatment for additional textile and apparel products that are wholly assembled or knit-to-shape in Haiti regardless of the origin of the inputs.
  • Increases the Tariff Preference Levels – The bill increases from 70 million square meter equivalents (SMEs) to 200 million SMEs the respective tariff preference levels (TPLs) under which certain Haitian knit and woven apparel products may receive duty-free treatment regardless of the origin of the inputs. The increase will be triggered in any given year if 52 million SMEs of Haitian apparel enter the United States under the existing knit or woven TPL. Once the increase is triggered, certain knit apparel products entering duty-free under the knit TPL will be subject to an 85 million SME sublimit, and certain woven apparel products entering duty-free under the woven TPL will be subject to a 70 million SME sublimit.
  • Safeguards against Transshipment – The bill requires U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to verify that apparel articles imported under the TPLs are not being unlawfully transshipped into the United States. The bill also authorizes the President to reduce the TPLs to account for unlawful apparel transshipment.
  • Liberalizes the Earned Import Allowance Rule – The bill permits the duty-free importation into the United States of one SME of apparel wholly assembled or knit-to-shape in Haiti regardless of the origin of the inputs for every two SMEs of qualifying fabric purchased from the United States.
  • Extends the Value-Added Rule – The bill extends until December 20, 2015, the rule that provides duty-free treatment for apparel wholly assembled or knit-to-shape in Haiti with at least 50 percent value from Haiti, the United States, a U.S. free trade agreement partner or preference program beneficiary, or a combination thereof. The bill similarly extends until December 20, 2017, duty-free treatment for Haitian apparel with at least 55 percent of value from qualifying countries, and until December 20, 2018, duty-free treatment for Haitian apparel with at least 60 percent of value from qualifying countries.
  • Extends Duty-Free Treatment for Wire Harnesses – The bill extends until December 20, 2016, the rule that provides duty-free treatment for wire harness automotive components imported from Haiti.
    Customs Support Services – The bill requires CBP to assess Haiti’s customs-related needs and provide assistance to reestablish Haiti’s port operations. The bill also requires CBP to provide to the Congress a report that describes Haiti’s customs infrastructure needs, sets forth a plan for providing technical assistance, and describes any funds expended to assist Haiti in rebuilding its customs infrastructure. And the bill authorizes funds to help Haiti meet its immediate customs infrastructure needs, and to maintain a U.S. customs team in Haiti.
  • Sense of Congress – The bill expresses the sense of Congress that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative should consult with U.S. trading partners to encourage the establishment of unilateral preference programs with Haiti, and that CBP should consult with U.S. trading partners to prevent unlawful transshipment of textile and apparel products through Haiti into the United States.