By Onz Chery

The renewal of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act is expected to secure 60,000 jobs in Haiti, mostly in textiles and apparel. Photo credit: Georges H. Rouzier

The U.S. Congress has renewed the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, an agreement that allows countries in the region to continue importing and exporting goods with America. 

Haiti, under the leadership of Haiti’s Ambassador to the United States Hervé Denis, led the way in advocating for the renewal of the CBTPA on behalf of the Caribbean region this year. He testified before the House Subcommittee on Trade of the Ways and Means Committee as part of those duties in September. During that Capitol Hill hearing, held virtually, Denis cited that the U.S. had gained a $7.4 billion trade surplus in 2018 alone, among the reasons for extending the CBTPA.

On Sept. 30, the U.S. Senate authorized the 10-year renewal and it was signed into law over the weekend of Oct. 10-11.

“It will save 60,000 [jobs] in Haiti and even create more,” Denis said in the week before the renewal. “A lot of people are protesting, life is hard. If they had a job, maybe there would’ve been less people protesting. CBTPA is one of the solutions, it creates jobs.”

Haiti is currently embroiled in a series of protests and counterprotests triggered by a variety of factors and organized by a slew of groups. Many of the demonstrations have resulted in numerous killings, including that of infants, and general fear for safety across the country.

Economically, Haiti is also now dealing with a rise in its currency, the gourde (G), that may have unintended consequences. Textile industry leaders recently warned that the gourde’s appreciation threatens about 25,000 jobs in that sector.

In a public statement calling for the renewal of the CBTPA, the embassy said the agreement provides duty-free eligibility for textiles and apparel made from U.S. yarns and fabrics. They said this will enable eligible countries to compete with China and other Asian apparel suppliers. 

“Haiti’s garment industry is the industrial foundation of the country’s economy, and its existence depends on the preferences granted under CBTPA and the additional HOPE/HELP programs,” the embassy said.

The CBPTA was first passed in 2000 as Public Law 106-200, the Trade and Development Act of 2000. It has been renewed every 10 years since then. 

CBTPA Highlights

The latest available CBTPA report, dated December 2019, details the trade activities for each member country and the expectations and consequences for participation. 

Highlights from the report related to Haiti include:

  • Haiti has been the largest beneficiary of trade preferences in recent years. 
  • Haiti has been the second leading source of U.S. imports since 2009. 
  • In May 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Haiti Economic Lift Program Act that expanded existing preferences for apparel and established new preferences for certain non-apparel textile goods.
  • U.S. imports under the CBI tariff preferences increased for a second consecutive year to $1 billion in 2018, up from $960 million in 2017 and $871 million in 2016. Cotton T-shirts from Haiti was one of two main reasons for the increase.  
  • U.S. imports from Haiti consisted mostly of textiles and apparel. In 2018, such imports amounted to $297.4 million under CBI provisions and $649.1 million under the HOPE Acts.
  • In 2018, petroleum related products accounted for approximately 30 percent of imports under the CBI preferential program.

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Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for The Haitian Times. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining The Haitian Times in 2019.

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