NRF welcomes bill to rescue Haitian apparel industry
The National Retail Federation welcomed legislation intended to help get Haiti's apparel industry back into full operation after last month's earthquake.
“Haiti is a growing source of apparel for U.S. retailers, and at the same time U.S. stores are a market that has played a major role in building up the Haitian economy,” NRF Vice President and International Trade Counsel Erik Autor said. “After the devastation brought by last month's earthquake, it is more important than ever that this two-way relationship be continued and expanded. This legislation will help put Haitians back to work at crucial time, and will also help provide long-term markets for their products that will help build a foundation for economic prosperity and political stability.”
Apparel is a core industry in Haiti, employing an estimated 25,000 workers and accounting for 75-80 percent of the nation's export earnings, with 82 percent of apparel exports going to the United States. But the January 12 earthquake caused widespread damage to the industry, including one T-shirt factory where 500 people died when the building was destroyed. The apparel industry is currently operating at 50 percent of capacity as a result, and is expected to need four to six weeks to get up to 70 percent capacity, depending on repairs to electricity and water supplies.
Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., on Tuesday unveiled S. 2978, the Renewing Hope for Haiti Act. Among other provisions, the bill would extend the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, which allows Haiti and other participating countries to export qualified apparel to the United States duty-free, through September 18, 2013, rather than allowing it to expire in October of this year as currently scheduled. The Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act of 2008 (HOPE II), which allows Haitian apparel to be made with yarn, fabric and other components sourced from the United States, free trade agreement nations or other regional trade preference partner countries under certain conditions, would be extended through 2022 rather than expiring in 2018. And the value-added rule of origin under HOPE II, which allows Haitian apparel producers who do not produce their own fabric limited access to fabric from outside the region, would be extended through 2013 rather than expiring in 2011.
The Wyden-Nelson bill would also require U.S. Customs and Border Protection to establish a presence in Haiti in order to enhance commercial assistance and help facilitate trade between Haiti, the neighboring Dominican Republic and the United States. CPB would work to pre-clear U.S.-bound Haitian exports to ensure that they comply with U.S. laws, and would provide technical assistance and training to Haitian customs authorities. The bill would also establish a Haiti Recovery and Investment Task Force led by the Secretary of the Treasury and charged with identifying obstacles to foreign investment in Haiti and taking action to address such obstacles.
National Retail Federation