Wyden, Nelson Introduce Legislation to Ensure Haiti's Economic Future
Legislation Bolsters Fragile Apparel Industry in Wake of Natural Disaster
Washington, D.C. - In an effort to give Haiti a badly needed economic boostin the wake of last month's devastating earthquake, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced legislation today to rebuild the country's apparel industry, which prior to the quake accounted for three-quarters of the nation's exports and employed more than 25,000 Haitians.
Since the Jan. 12 earthquake, Haiti's apparel industry has experienced a nearly 50 percent reduction in capacity. At least one apparel factory was destroyed with more than 500 of its workers losing their lives in the collapse.
Wyden's and Nelson's "Renewing Hope for Haiti Act" aims to guarantee a future for this essential industry by providing the policy framework necessary to help Haiti get its apparel sector up and running.
"The millions of aid dollars flowing into Haiti right now are essential to addressing the immediate crisis, but Haiti's long-term survival depends on immediate steps being taken to protect its economic future," said Wyden, Chairman of the Senate subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness. "By renewing pro-Haitian provisions in U.S. trade law, streamlining customs processes and opening up avenues for foreign investment, the U.S. can have a significant impact on this fragile economy and restore a much-needed sense of normalcy."
"Economic assistance for Haiti is critical right now," said Nelson. "That's because long-term stability there will be determined in large part by Haiti rebuilding a viable economy."
Haiti's apparel industry has grown in recent years thanks to existing U.S. laws that allow Haiti to export apparel to the U.S. duty-free under more liberal rules than the U.S. extends to its other trading partners. The Renewing Hope Act will renew these trade laws, some of which were set to expire in September. Renewing this law now will send a clear signal to U.S. retailers that they do not need to look to China and other Asian countries to fill orders but will instead be able to continue doing business with Haitian producers.
The legislation also creates an executive branch task force which will be led by the Department of Treasury. This task force will be charged with identifying obstacles to foreign investment in Haiti and facilitating economic growth and poverty reduction. The Renewing Hope Act will also deploy resources and personnel from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to facilitate trade between Haiti and the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. Having Customs agents on the ground in Haiti will help Haitian producers fast-track their exports and secure their supply chain in order to get Haitian factories up and running again.