- Table of Contents
- Full Issue in PDF
- Building the Power Infrastructure of Tomorrow
- Haitian Relief Efforts Focus on U.S. Business Community
- Small Business Exporters Tell of Triumphs and Challenges
- Short Takes
- Trade Calendar
- Featured Trade Event: Energy and Infrastructure Trade Mission to Saudi Arabia
Haitian Relief Efforts Focus on U.S. Business Community
A textile plant near Port au Prince, Haiti. Trade and investment will be key determinants in Haiti’s long-term success in recovering from the earthquake of January 12, 2010. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
Success in rebuilding Haiti’s economy will depend largely on investments made by the U.S. and Haitian business communities. Through a series of public events and outreach programs, the International Trade Administration is working to engage businesses in these rebuilding efforts.
Following Haiti’s devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010, U.S. businesses responded generously with donations and assistance during the rescue and disaster relief operations. More recently, however, the response of the business community has shifted from immediate relief to longer-term recovery and reconstruction.
The International Trade Administration (ITA) has been engaged in a vigorous outreach program to both the U.S. business community and the Haitian diaspora in the United States to facilitate recovery and reconstruction. The program began with the Haiti Reconstruction Business Dialogue in Washington, D.C., on April 20, 2010 (see the May 2010 issue of International Trade Update). This event brought together high-level representatives from U.S. government agencies with programs that support trade and investment in Haiti as well as senior leaders of U.S. companies with business experience in Haiti.
For More Information
For more information about the Department of Commerce’s Haiti reconstruction efforts, contact Sara Hagigh, tel.: (202) 482-5405; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit the Web site of the U.S. Foreign and Commercial Service in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The site contains, among other items, the presentations made at the June conference in Haiti.
The national event was followed by a series of local events in three U.S. cities that were organized by the ITA in partnership with local business organizations: New York on May 10, Miami on May 25, and Philadelphia on June 7. The three cities were selected in part because of their significant Haitian communities. The Haitian diaspora in the United States is expected to play an important part in Haiti’s future development.
Participants in the three events learned about Haiti’s economic environment, contracting opportunities with government and multilateral development banks, and tools for financing investment. The conferences attracted nearly 1,000 participants.
Conference in Haiti
On June 10 and 11, representatives from more than 600 companies from the United States, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic attended a conference in Montrouis, Haiti, titled “Building a New Haiti: Commerce, Business, Investment.” It was the first meeting to bring together business representatives from all three countries since the January earthquake.
Rick Wade, senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, kicked off the two-day conference by discussing what the Department of Commerce has been doing to assist Haiti in its post-earthquake reconstruction efforts.
“Over the past few months, I have been traveling across the United States to help encourage U.S. businesses and the Haitian diaspora to help [in Haiti’s] recovery,” Wade said. “This conference is a culmination of those efforts. We’re on the ground here in Haiti to identify the areas of need and the opportunities for cooperation.”
Aid to Textile Industry
The U.S. government is also working to assist Haiti’s economic reconstruction through new legislation. On May 7, 2010, Congress passed the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP). This law significantly extends existing trade benefits for Haitian textiles and apparel until 2020.
The apparel sector in Haiti has the greatest potential to generate jobs relatively quickly. It is also a critical component of the Haitian economy. It constitutes more than 80 percent of Haitian exports to the United States and employs more than 25,000 workers. On May 28, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke met with representatives from key U.S. apparel importers and retailers to discuss the trade benefits created by HELP.
The passage of HELP “represents a major opportunity for export-led growth and job creation,” said Wade at the Montrouis conference. “But this legislation, and other measures like it, will accomplish little or nothing without the private sector.”
The Department of Commerce will continue to encourage the U.S. business community to invest in Haiti and to help nurture Haiti’s domestic industries.
Haiti: A Personal View from Wyclef Jean
Wyclef Jean (left) and Patrick Delatour (right), Haitian minister of tourism, at the Haiti Reconstruction Business Dialogue that was held in Washington, D.C., April 20. 2010. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
In April 2010, the Department of Commerce brought together more than 300 representatives from the business and government sectors to discuss ways of coordinating efforts to rebuild Haiti. Among the attendees was one of Haiti’s most noted native sons, Wyclef Jean, the musician and global philanthropist.
Jean agreed to speak with Valeisha Butterfield and Lorri Crowley of ITA’s Office of Public Affairs about his personal experience with the devastation suffered by Haiti after the January earthquake and about the things that will be most important to Haiti’s reconstruction.
When asked to put into words what he saw when he landed in Haiti right after the earthquake, Jean hesitated and said, “It would be hard to describe.… I was picking up bodies and bringing them to the morgue, and the morgue was overpopulated. And I was taking children’s bodies, bringing them to the cemetery, [and] the cemetery was overpopulated. They were burying three or four bodies at once.”
Jean emphasized that businesses will have to play a key role in rebuilding Haiti, both in bringing jobs to the country and in helping to educate its workforce. “Business is the most important thing, but the workforce for business in Haiti is young, where 61 percent of the population can’t read or write. So, we should be moving toward an education initiative at the same time as we’re [bringing in] business.”
Companies should look at education as an important element of doing business in Haiti, said Jean. “A telecommunications firm shouldn’t just come in to do telecommunications, but put in a trade school or an engineering school: they can not only sell Haitians their telephones, but [also] teach them a trade.”
According to Jean, the Haitian workforce is one of the country’s biggest assets. “Haitians are hard workers, they will work in the daytime and go to school at night. Training is very important to them.”“The future of any country,” he added, “is education.”
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