Lyric You in Lilacs

May 24, 2010

Does HELP help enough?

Filed under: Uncategorized — lyricyouinlilacs @ 5:48 am
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In an effort to shore up Haiti’s devastated post-earthquake economy, the House and Senate just introduced a bipartisan bill—the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act—to expand duty-free imports from Haiti to the United States.  The bill specifically targets Haiti’s garment industry, which is responsible for 90 percent of the country’s exports and a full one-third of its manufacturing jobs.  HELP, which is slated to last 10 years, would more than double the amount of Haitian knit and woven goods to hit American stores.  And while some in Haiti’s government had hoped for a longer timeframe and a more generous increase in tariff preference levels, the HELP Act looks good, at least at first glance.

If HELP has any problems, they’re not so much with what it does, as with what it doesn’t do.  At the Center for Global Development, Kimberly Ann Elliot has done some great analyses of the benefits and limitations of the current legislation.  She notes that “the majority of [textile] exports, currently under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, are unaffected by the bill and will continue to be subject to complicated eligibility rules that restrict where Haitian exporters can source fabric and other inputs, thereby raising their costs.”  One of the problems with previous U.S. efforts to help Haiti grow its garment sector was that the United States attached stipulations requiring Haitian manufacturers to purchase necessary raw materials from the United States.  While HELP waives those requirements for a number of textiles, a large swath of other apparel goods—especially those exported under the HOPE Act of 2006 and the HOPE II Act of 2008—are still subject to the old regulations.  HELP is clearly a move in the right direction.  But unfortunately, for a large part of Haiti’s economy, HELP may not help enough.

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