Haiti: Obama signs HELP sweatshop law

On May 25 US president Barack Obama signed into law a measure intended to promote renewed development of the low-wage apparel assembly industry in Haiti. The Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act of 2010, introduced in Congress on April 28 by a bipartisan group of representatives and senators, extends through 2020 several existing laws giving tariff preferences for apparel stitched in Haiti: the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) and the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Engagement Acts of 2006 (HOPE Act) and 2008 (HOPE II).

Proponents of the measure said HELP would aid Haiti’s recovery from a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. “We are confident Haiti will now be able to attract substantial investment that could create tens of thousands of jobs,” said Ron Sorini, a principal of Sorini, Samet & Associates, a DC-based consulting firm that represents the Haitian government on trade. The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), a US manufacturers’ association, noted: “While aiding Haiti through recovery, this law works to create a predictable and certain environment for the US apparel and textile industry.” (Fibre2Fashion, Gujarat, India, May 26; Sorini Samet press release, May 21; Just-Style, UK, May 25)

US plans to develop the Haitian assembly sectors were among the policies a meeting of European and Latin American social movements in Madrid denounced on May 16, saying that the US was using a “humanitarian alibi” to defend “US geopolitical, economic and military interests.”

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 30.

See our last post on Haiti.