President Obama signed into law on May 24, 2010 a bill that extended and expanded trade benefits offered to Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010. The legislation also goes beyond the specific preferences for Haiti in order to renew for ten years the broader Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), under which imports of apparel, oil, and certain other products imported from Haiti and other countries in the Caribbean Basin are eligible for duty-free treatment. The CBTPA had been scheduled to expire on September 30, 2010 (i.e., at the end of Fiscal Year 2010).
This bill was acted upon with remarkable speed. The leaders of the trade committees in both chambers of the U.S. Congress introduced the bill on April 28, 2010. The House of Representatives approved this bill on a voice vote (i.e., a vote for which the specific yeas and nays are not available) on May 5, 2010, and the Senate approved it on a voice vote the next day.
The Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act (H.R. 5160/S.3275) will expand duty-free access to the U.S. market for Haitian textile and apparel exports, and will extend the existing trade preference programs offered under the Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act of 2006 and continued in HOPE II, approved in 2008. The bill offers the following new or extended trade preferences for imports of textiles and apparel and certain other sensitive imports from Haiti, as well as additional benefits:
- Extends CBTPA and HOPE - Extends the CBTPA and the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE) through September 30, 2020.
- Expands the Wholly Assembled List - 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 - 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.
- Safeguards against Transshipment - 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 - 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 - 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 - Extends until December 20, 2016 the rule that provides duty-free treatment for wire harness automotive components imported from Haiti.