PORT-AU-PRINCE – At the second board meeting of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, a diverse group of stakeholders announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to cooperate and collaborate on activities intended to create thousands of formal jobs through the development of a globally competitive industrial park and major manufacturing operations in Northern Haiti. The Ministry of Economy and Finance of Haiti, Hansoll Textile Ltd (Korea), the Inter-American Development Bank, and the United States Department of State today signed on as participants of the MOU.
The MOU marks the first collaborative public-private effort to grow employment and exports in the apparel industry since the January 12 earthquake and the signing of the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act enhancing trade preferences for Haiti. In executing the MOU, the parties ensured that their work would be consistent with the Government of Haiti’s National Action Plan and its prioritization of new development centers that hold promising economic opportunities for Haiti’s future growth. In signing the MOU, the parties also recognized the expectation that all new apparel manufacturing facilities in Haiti would be committed to ensuring adherence to international labor standards, for example through participation in the International Labor Organization's (ILO) ongoing 'Better Work Program' in Haiti.
Participants to the MOU are working together to plan the development of an industrial park including the required supporting infrastructure and financing mechanisms. The Government of Haiti, working with its private sector-Government-labor Tripartite Committee for the Implementation of Hope (become HELP), as well its Ministries of Economy and Finance as well as Commerce and Industry, and the Inter-American Development Bank are exploring ways to fund the build-out of the industrial park and connective roadways, while Hansoll is exploring sites and identifying the infrastructure needs required to support thousands of Haitian apparel sector jobs. The US Government is assessing the requisite electricity, housing and port needs for such a park. With the recent enactment of the HELP Act by the U.S. Congress, firms in the apparel industry have expressed interest in expanding sourcing in Haiti to benefit from further improved duty-free access to the U.S. market. The value of Haitian apparel exports to the United States ($512 million) amounted to approximately 10 percent of Haiti’s GDP in 2009, but that is a fraction of the levels that existed in the early 1990s. While the industry currently employs over 25,000 Haitians, in the early 1990s there were at least 60,000 garment workers in Haiti. Participants to the MOU seek to capture the opportunity for expansion in the sector to help Haiti on its path of economic growth and multiply the number of jobs the sector provided at its peak.
“Today's signing of the Memorandum of Understanding underscores the importance of cooperation between the Government of Haiti, private investors and international partners in building a stronger economy for a more prosperous nation,” said Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. "Apparel products are our highest value exports to the US and vital for our economic growth. The signing of the MOU is the first step to bring the benefits of this growing industry to Northern Haiti, in line with the Government's vision of creating new economic opportunities outside of Port-au-Prince.”
“For Haiti to build back better, we must work together to invest in long-term sustainable development projects and the apparel industry is a prime example of a sector where foreign investment will bolster local economies,” said Cheryl D. Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “The United States and our co-signatories are taking an important step towards bringing the people of Haiti a real opportunity to rebuild and sustain their livelihoods for years to come. The United States, like other donors at the March 31, 2010 Haiti Conference in New York, seeks to ensure that our assistance provides Haiti with the chance at economic growth that ends rather than reinforces dependency on foreign aid.”
“The IDB is committed to helping Haiti establish the right conditions to attract private sector investments capable of generating massive employment. This project could potentially lead to the creation of some 120,000 jobs,” said IDB Haiti Response Group Manager Agustín Aguerre. “In addition, by locating this industrial park in the north, we will also support the Haitian government's goal of promoting decentralization and economic development in other regions of the country.”
“We are very honored and proud to be part of the effort to help bring new economic opportunities to the Haitian people, said J.S. Lee, the Chairman of Hansoll Textile Ltd. “We are inspired as a company by the potential of this investment to make a positive contribution to the lives of tens of thousands of Haitian families, and we are committed to do our part to move this effort forward with the urgency we all feel on behalf of the Haitian people.”