Monday, October 19, 2009

Congressman Kendrick B. Meek Applauds President Obama's Decision to Extend Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity Through Partnership Encouragement Act of 20

President Barack Obama announced the extension of the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act of 2008 (HOPE II) allowing for certain textile products from Haiti to remain eligible for preferential tariff treatment after October 18, 2009.

The bill was championed by Congressman Kendrick Meek, a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and was passed into law on May 14, 2008.

“This legislation helps Haitians rebuild their economy by developing homegrown industries that will provide long-term opportunities for growth within Haitian society,” said Congressman Kendrick Meek. “Humanitarian assistance remains critical for Haiti to rebuild after food riots and four severe hurricanes in recent years, but HOPE II will help Haiti rebuild long into the future by creating a sustainable economic engine for growth.”

In 2007, H.R. 6111, the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act of 2006 (HOPE), was signed into law. It was initially thought that within six months to a year the HOPE legislation would at least double the number of jobs in the textile industry in Haiti from 12,000 to a minimum of 24,000. The legislation, however, included overly complicated rules which have made foreign investment in Haiti extremely difficult.

Passed on May 14, 2008, HOPE II expanded the benefits for U.S. apparel imports from Haiti beyond what Haiti currently receives under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act. The average Haitian garment worker earns between $4 and $5 a day, while 80% of Haitians live on less than $2 a day. Haitians working in the textile industry possess the buying power to help stimulate the Haitian economy.

HOPE II includes the following provisions:

The legislation will lengthen the trade preferences from the current three year period to a ten year period, giving businesses the stability they seek in a preference program.

The legislation will increase the amount of duty free fabric allowed to come into the U.S. from Haiti by streamlining rules of origin.

Benefits will be tied to Haiti continuing to hold fair and free elections and its ability to maintain and improve governmental transparency.

The legislation includes the implementation of a new labor program, which will ensure that HOPE II continues the Democratic tradition of providing strong worker rights in trade agreements.

In 2008, Congressman Meek was the first Member of Congress to travel to Haiti since unrest broke out there due to rising food prices. During his trip on April 20th and 21st, Congressman Meek met with Haitian President René Préval, now retired U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson, and representatives from the international community, as well as toured Haitian factories that would benefit from the passage of HOPE II legislation. Ever since the passage of HOPE II, Congressman Meek has remained actively engaged in promoting this legislation.

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