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Clinton Urges More Trade with "Open-for-Business" Haiti

By Phillip Kurata | Staff Writer | 23 October 2012
Secretary Clinton and Haitian President Michel Martelly shaking hands (AP Images)

Secretary Clinton shakes hands with Haitian President Michel Martelly at the industrial park in Caracol, Haiti.

Washington — “Haiti is truly open for business, and we want your help,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a visit to an industrial park in northern Haiti.

The United States contributed $124 million for the construction of the 250-hectare Caracol Industrial Park, where a Korean apparel company, Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd., employs more than 1,000 Haitians and has begun shipping clothing to the largest retailer in the United States, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The Caracol Park is the single largest U.S. project to help Haiti recover from the 2010 earthquake.

“We see this partnership between governments like our own and the private sector as absolutely essential in promoting and supporting long-term prosperity in Haiti. We know very well that long-term prosperity cannot come from just the provision of aid; there must be trade and investment like we have seen here today,” Clinton said at the park, about 160 kilometers north of the capital, Port-au-Prince, October 22.

Sae-A plans to create 20,000 permanent jobs within six years and build 5,000 houses for the workers. Some economists have said the entire park has the potential to generate up to 65,000 jobs. A local paint company, Peintures Caraibes SA, became the second tenant of the park in July and plans to hire a total of 350 workers. The park is offering duty-free status and a 15-year tax holiday to attract companies to set up shop there.

A senior State Department official traveling with the Clinton delegation said the labor standards at the Caracol Park constitute one of the strictest compliance regimes for labor in the world. “It even allows individual-level action to be taken against specific manufacturers or other partners,” the official said.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis accompanied Clinton to the park to highlight the importance that the United States places on protecting workers’ rights. Clinton and Solis visited housing units with running water, flush toilets and electricity for families of park workers, who have not had such amenities in the past. A nearby power plant will eventually produce 25 million megawatts of electricity, serving about 100,000 businesses and households for the first time in the region.

In the years ahead, Haiti will need more roads, a bigger power grid and more and better ports, all of which will make the country an attractive place for foreign investors, according to the secretary.

“There’s a lot of opportunity in crafts and artisan work, in tourism, agriculture and manufacturing, an untapped labor market that you’ve already seen here in Sae-A, and other companies setting up here. And, of course, Haiti has an unmatched trading partner in the United States, just a few hundred miles away,” she said.