Trade Laws Modification
I rise reluctantly to support this trade bill. I say "reluctantly'' because the bill includes several different trade provisions, each of which deserves to be considered on its own merit. These provisions should not be lumped together as a single bill and brought to the floor with no opportunity for meaningful debate or amendments. However, I strongly support the HOPE bill which provides duty-free treatment for apparel imports from Haiti, the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere.
On May 14, Rene Preval was sworn in as the democratically elected President of Haiti following a period of political instability and violence that lasted over 2 years. Now President Preval needs to provide economic opportunity for the Haitian people.
The HOPE bill will enable Haiti to manufacture apparel products for export to the United States. These trade benefits would only apply as long as Haitian apparel products do not exceed 2 percent of U.S. apparel imports. While these benefits are small by American standards, they will create jobs and promote economic development in this very small, impoverished country.
I would urge my colleagues to support the bill, given all of the questions they may have about the bill. I have worked very closely with the problems of Haiti and I think that we need to give them a chance. I, too, am concerned about whether or not workers will be exploited, but we can keep a close eye on that. Some of us are involved in a CODEL to Haiti as soon as we close down this floor and leaving tomorrow morning where we will be talking with President Preval and parliamentarians. Their greatest hope and their greatest desire is to get support of this trade bill tonight and to give them this HOPE program. Let's just give them a chance, again, despite whatever questions we may have.
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