Lawyers from Hogan and Hartson and other firms, a former assistant U.S. Trade Representative, the ambassador of Haiti, a former counsellor at the embassy of the Dominican Republic, and three representatives of the Haiti Democracy Project all convened today at the offices of Manchester Trade to discuss the future of the HOPE initiative. On the speakerphone was Jean-Edouard Baker, a leading manufacturer in Haiti.

The sense of the meeting was that chances were good for the passage of HOPE in the lame-duck session of Congress, set to begin on November 14.

The experts at the meeting said that the argument of the textile trade association (posted on this webpage) had no validity. Haiti’s feeble industry did not threaten to “demolish” U.S. jobs. Those jobs had already gone to China and the question was whether a tiny fraction of them could be shifted to Haiti.

Under HOPE the level of Haitian apparel imports could rise from its current infinitesimal 0.3 percent of the U.S. apparel market (which is less than the margin for statistical error) to a thumping 1 percent! Then if it ever got there it could rise by 0.25 percent a year.

Eighty percent of Haiti’s imports came from the United States. The equivalent figure for China was between 6 to 10 percent. For the many sewing components such as pockets and buttons Haiti would normally turn to the United States, whereas China would not. This was even truer for equipment and infrastructure.