A package of U.S. trade laws to help the exports of poor countries, which was set to expire at year’s end, won an eleventh-hour reprieve thanks in part to the deft work of several Hewlett Foundation grantees.

 At issue was a series of trade preferences that had enabled more than a half dozen of the world’s poorest countries to export their products to the United States free of tariffs and quotas. The preferences would have affected numerous African countries, as well as Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador and Haiti-the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

In addition, the membership of Vietnam in the World Trade Organization was up for approval. Vietnam is among the poorest countries in Asia.

Many political observers had written off extension of the trade preferences and Vietnam’s admission because of recent anti-trade sentiment in Congress and the arrayed opposition of a several industry interest groups.

But in the end, a variety of nonprofit organizations supported by The Hewlett Foundation helped turn the tide.

One, the International Food Policy Research Institute, contributed to the debate an analysis that demonstrated of the benefits of duty-free access for the poorest countries.

Three others-Oxfam America, Bread for the World, and the Partnership to Cut Hunger in Africa-worked together to educate members of Congress about the importance of these laws in helping the poor in developing countries.

Crucially, the Global Works Foundation, which works with pro-development business leaders, for the first time worked closely with these non-profits in support of the legislation. The breadth of this coalition was key to demonstrating the importance of making poverty reduction a centerpiece of U.S. foreign and economic policy.

In the end, Congress extended the legislation not just for a year, as in the past, but for six years, and without many of the restrictions that previously had been imposed.