U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke met today with representatives from key U.S. apparel importers and retailers, including J.C. Penney, VF Americas and Polo Ralph Lauren, at the Commerce Department to discuss trade benefits created by recently passed legislation designed to help U.S. companies increase their apparel sourcing from earthquake-stricken Haiti.
The apparel sector has the greatest potential to generate jobs relatively quickly and boost Haiti’s economic recovery, and it’s a critical component of the Haitian economy, constituting more than 80 percent of Haitian exports to the United States and employing more than 25,000 workers. Just four months after January’s earthquake, Haitian manufacturers are up and running, operating at more than 90 percent capacity.
“Trade benefits between Haiti and the United States were significantly expanded this week when President Obama signed the Haiti Economic Lift Program, known as ‘HELP,’” Locke said. “These benefits will encourage investment in, and sourcing from, Haitian apparel producers, helping to build an economically sustainable Haiti.”
Commerce has a lead role in the administration’s strategy to assist the people of Haiti and has been instrumental in connecting businesses in the U.S. with opportunities to help in the rebuilding of the Haitian economy. On June 7, Commerce will host a Haiti Reconstruction Forum in Philadelphia to provide information on opportunities for U.S. businesses wanting to contribute to the country’s recovery. On June 10-11, Commerce will co-host “Building a New Haiti: Business, Commerce and Investment,” a forum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to share ideas and information about Haitian reconstruction, recovery strategies and programs. Similar events held in Washington, D.C.; New York, N.Y.; and Miami, Fla.; attracted more than 800 participants.
Rick Wade, senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to Locke, is heading the department’s Haiti business outreach and joined Locke in today’s meeting. Wade attended all three recent conferences and plans to participate in the upcoming June events as well.
“Today’s meeting with U.S. apparel importers and retailers gave us greater insight into how we can make ‘HELP’ work for Haiti,” Wade said. “With this information, we can better facilitate relationships between U.S. companies and Haitian manufacturers at our upcoming events in Philadelphia and Port-au-Prince.”
‘HELP’ was enacted on Tuesday and significantly extends existing trade benefits for Haitian textiles and apparel until 2020, including increased quotas for knit and woven apparel and unlimited duty-free treatment for certain textile and apparel products. The program greatly increases the attractiveness of the Haitian apparel sector for foreign investment.
For more information on upcoming events in Philadelphia or Port-au-Prince, please visit http://www.buyusa.gov/philadelphia/reconstructhaiti.html and http://amcham.org.do/haiti/index-en.asp.
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