Wednesday, December 13, 2006

H.O.P.E. for Haiti

Last week, after years of inaction, the United States House of Representatives finally passed H.R. 6406, the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (H.O.P.E.) Act by a vote of a 212-184. Supporters, including California Republican Bill Thomas (whose voting record I disagree with on many other issues) and Florida Democratic Representative Kendrick B. Meek (who I often concur with), say that the bill has the potential to create tens of thousands of new jobs in the Haitian textile industry, no small thing in a place where two-thirds of the labor force has no formal employment. The bill, which allows certain types of apparel assembled in Haiti to be brought into the States duty-free even if the materials originate a third country, now moves to the Senate

With support from a broad range of U.S. corporations, church groups (the Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the United Methodist Church, to name a few) and the government of Haitian president René Préval, the bill nevertheless faces fierce opposition from the U.S. textile industry. My fervent desire is that this opposition will not succeed in scuttling what for Haiti is a desperately needed lifeline. H.O.P.E., which is a watered-down version of the Haitian Economy Recovery Opportunity (H.E.R.O.) Act, may be but a tiny step in the right direction of trying to revive Haiti‘s economy, but you take your signs of hope, pun unavoidable, where you can get them..

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