US lawmakers agree on trade bill to help Haiti

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top Democratic and Republican lawmakers said yesterday they have reached a deal to help Haiti recover from its earthquake by opening the US market to more of the country’s clothing and textiles.

“Today’s legislation responds to the clear call to action Americans heard in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti,” House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin said in a statement. “This legislation provides important incentives to expand trade and investment in Haiti and it does so in a manner respectful of the complementarities of the industries in our two countries,” Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said.

A key provision of the bill would increase the amount of certain Haitian knit and woven clothing products that qualify for US duty-free treatment to 200 million square metre equivalents (SMEs), from 70 million currently.

That increase would occur in any year that Haiti ships at least 52 million SMEs of the knit and woven product.

However, to provide a buffer for US producers, the bill sets separate “sublimits” of 85 million SMEs for knit clothing and 70 million for woven apparel.

“This bill is a common-sense approach with support from both sides of the aisle in both the House and Senate, and I urge my colleagues to work with us to quickly pass this legislation,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, said.

The deal was struck with Senator Charles Grassley and Representative Dave Camp, the top Republicans, respectively, on the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee.

Former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, a long-time advocate of trade preferences for Haiti, was also instrumental in the deal.

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