The Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act, passed in late 2006 as part of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, permits the president to designate Haiti as a beneficiary country eligible for duty-free treatment of certain apparel articles and certain wire harness components. On March 20, the president made the two determinations necessary to effectuate Haiti’s beneficiary status under the HOPE Act.

First, the president determined that Haiti is eligible. To be eligible Haiti had to demonstrate (1) that it is making progress toward such goals as a market-based economy, the rule of law, intellectual property rights protection, combating corruption and bribery and workers’ rights; (2) that it does not engage in activities that undermine U.S. national security; and (3) that it does not engage in human rights violations or support terrorism. Second, the president certified to Congress that Haiti has adopted an effective visa system to prevent transshipment of apparel, has implemented regulations that will permit CBP verification teams to investigate possible instances of transshipment and has agreed to certain reporting and cooperative measures.

The president was required to make the first certification, regarding eligibility, within 90 days after enactment of the HOPE Act. The president’s March 20 certification thus occurred on the latest permissible date. There was no deadline for the president to make the second certification, regarding transshipment controls, but, as expected, the president made that certification to Congress concurrently with the eligibility determination.

In preparation for the determination about Haiti’s eligibility, USTR requested comments from the public in January and February. Supporters of the HOPE Act have emphasized the mutual benefits of trade between the United States and Haiti, particularly the benefits to Haiti’s struggling economy. In contrast, opponents have cited corruption, poor labor conditions and a lack of transshipment controls in Haiti as reasons Haiti should not be an eligible beneficiary country. Under the HOPE Act, the president may also terminate Haiti’s beneficiary status if the president determines that Haiti is not continuing to make progress in the areas required for eligibility.