April 28,2010

Press Contact:

Scott Mulhauser/Erin Shields (Baucus) (202) 224-4515
Matthew Beck (W&M) (202) 225-8933
Jill Gerber (Grassley) (202) 224-4515
Lauren Phillips (Camp) (202) 225-3561
Emile Milne (Rangel) (202) 225-4365

Baucus, Levin, Grassley, Camp, Rangel Introduce Bill to Speed Haiti’s Earthquake Recovery

Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Would Extend, Expand Trade Preference Programs for Haiti

Washington, DC – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.), along with Finance Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation today to help speed Haiti’s economic recovery following the devastating January earthquake that shattered the country’s economy.  The Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act, introduced in both the House and Senate today, expands duty-free access to the U.S. market for Haitian textile and apparel exports and extends existing trade preference programs for Haiti through 2020.

“The devastating earthquake in Haiti took the lives – and livelihoods – of hundreds of thousands of our neighbors in Haiti, and they need our help to begin rebuilding their country,” Baucus said.  “By improving access to the U.S. market for Haitian textile and apparel products, our bill will provide the long-term assistance Haiti needs to get back on its feet. This bill is a common-sense approach with support from both sides of the aisle in both the House and Senate, and I urge my colleagues to work with us to quickly pass this legislation.”

“Today’s legislation responds to the clear call to action Americans heard in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti,” Levin said.  “This legislation provides important incentives to expand trade and investment in Haiti and it does so in a manner respectful of the complementarities of the industries in our two countries.  It reflects careful consideration and collaboration with stakeholders here in the United States as well as Haitian industry representatives and provides a way forward that works to the benefit of workers and businesses in both countries.”

“This bill reflects a bipartisan, bicameral compromise that balances the concerns of domestic producers with providing meaningful trade benefits for Haiti’s apparel sector,” Grassley said.  “The legislation will help to spur investment and create jobs in Haiti and so assist that country in its long-term economic recovery from the devastating earthquake.  At the same time, the legislation addresses the concerns that have been expressed by the U.S. textile industry with respect to both domestic and regional production of textiles and apparel.  I hope to see the bill enacted into law as soon as possible.”

“I am proud that we have been able to craft a bipartisan, bicameral agreement that provides meaningful assistance to Haiti and addresses the concerns of our U.S. industry,” Camp said. “These benefits will encourage the long term investment Haiti desperately needs for its economic recovery and future stability.  This legislation builds on the short term assistance that Congress provided earlier this year to accelerate the tax benefits for charitable donations to the Haitian relief effort.  I am pleased to have participated in both these efforts.  These are excellent examples of how Congress can work in a bipartisan fashion to promote trade and investment in the region and to create strong hemispheric partnerships.” 

“On January 12, Haiti met with an unthinkable crisis, one that no nation ever hopes to bear,” Rangel said.  “We were presented with a challenge too -- how to help our sister nation through such a crisis.  This legislation is one critical part of the answer.  The Haitian garment sector, Haiti’s flagship industry, was making important strides prior to the earthquake and helping the country’s economy establish a stable foothold.  With this legislation, we will help to get the garment sector and Haiti’s economy back on that critical trajectory.”

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. 

Baucus and Grassley also introduced two bills earlier this year, one allowing American taxpayers to deduct qualifying donations for Haiti relief on their 2009 tax returns and another 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. Full text of the legislation is available here.

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.