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Obama Signs Haiti Assistance Bill

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

President Barack Obama has signed into law the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act to provide economic assistance to Haiti. The program likely will result in expanded textile and apparel trade between the United States and Haiti.

The law extends two existing preferential trade agreements with Haiti, the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act and the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Engagement Act, through 2020. It also provides for some increases in tariff preference levels (TPLs) permitting use of yam and fabric from non-participating countries at specified levels.

The American Apparel and Footwear Association has strongly endorsed the HELP Act, saying it is important for Haiti's economic recovery and it will bring about certainty and predictability in the recovery efforts. U.S. textile manufecturers, who do not like TPLs in preferential trade agreements, went along with the HELP Act because, while it increased some TPLs, it exempted from increases some highly sensitive product categories such as trousers, T-shirts, pullovers and sweatshirts. They view Haiti as an "exceptional case" saying the act strikes a balance between helping Haiti recover from this year's devastating earthquake and at the same time safeguarding U.S. textile jobs.

June 1, 2010