By Lara Falcone

Last week the Haiti’s Center for the Facilitation of Investments (CFI) and Association of Industries of Haiti signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Inter-American Development Bank to ensure support in renewing the existing duty-free trade agreement with the United States.

The clothing industry plays a critical role in Haiti’s economy, with garments accounting for 90 percent of the country’s exports to the United States. In 2014, $854.3 million worth of textiles and apparel were shipped to the U.S.

“The apparel and productive sector is a key provider of employment in the Haitian economy and as this government seeks to increase employment, we are happy to be able to continue pursuing the critical investments the sector needs,” said CFI Director General Norma Powell in a statement to Haiti Libre.

The current duty-free status exists under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, the 2008 Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity Through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE II) and the 2010 Haiti Economic Lift Program.

Last month in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Extension and Enhancement Act of 2015, an addendum was added to AGOA, which allows the extension into 2025. The long-term renewal of the program will improve the environment for investment and assist in creating new jobs.

“The AGOA Bill contains a fundamental provision which extends the HOPE/HELP Program for 10 years until September 30, 2025” ADIH Executive Director Marie-Louise Augustin Russo stated in a recent press release.

Since the 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s garment industry has grown an impressive 52 percent with employment rising from 17,000 to nearly 35,000 workers. Many North American companies such as Gildan (Under Armour), Hanes, Target and Walmart rely on Haiti for their apparel.

Hanes ships cotton grown in the United States to the Dominican Republic for processing. It is then shipped to Haiti and is manufactured into underwear and T-shirts before continuing to the U.S and other countries. In order to qualify as duty-free apparel the garments must be wholly assembled, sewn, or knit-to-shape, in Haiti from any combination of fabrics.

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