Catholic Bishops Praise U.S. Trade Bill for Haiti

A group of Catholic Bishops offered their praise for a bill passed yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives that offers trade breaks for Haiti's textile industry.

The bill, sponsored by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), further opens Haiti's access to the U.S. textile market in knit and woven fabrics and extends its duty-free access to the market into 2020.

Haiti's clothing sector, whose exports reached $513 million last year, was one of Haiti's largest employers prior to the Jan. 12 quake, creating jobs for nearly 25,000 people.

Bishop Howard Hubbard and Catholic Relief Services President Ken Hackett wrote a letter to Congress on Wednesday saying that they "strongly support this bipartisan bill which-in the midst of so much desperation-will send a clear signal that the United States is prepared to take the necessary steps to improve the lives of thousands of Haitians both in the short-term and in the long-ter."

"We encourage the Senate to move the bill quickly through the legislative process," they added.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also commended the bill, saying in a joint statement that the measure "responds to the needs of the Haitian people for more tools to lift themselves from poverty, while standing to benefit US consumers."

Meanwhile, U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have proposed increasing the U.S. aid to Haiti to $3.5 billion over the next five years.

The proposal, which would nearly triple the U.S.'s expected funding to Haiti in 2011, would also create a senior Haiti policy coordinator based in the State Department.

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