Amelia Baines is an intern in the Office of Public Affairs in the International Trade Administration
Despite seemingly overwhelming odds, Haiti continues its road to recovery. This struggling nation is slowly rebuilding after the devastating earthquake in 2010. While the Haitian government and economy is still on the road to recovery, Haiti’s textile and apparel industry continues to grow, even with the challenges posed by insufficient infrastructure and potential customer’ concern about the country’s recovery. As Haiti’s largest employer, continued expansion of the textile and apparel sector could infuse the economy with the growth it so desperately needs. Haiti is a prime location for business ventures, new industries, as well as exports. This small nation is surrounded by water and has a large sea port where their main exports are various types of textiles.
The Haitian textile and apparel industry is the country’s largest manufacturing sector, and employs more than 28,000 workers, and apparel constitutes more than 80 percent of all Haitian exports to the United States. In 2010, exports of Haitian apparel valued more than $550 million, and looks to be increasing in 2011. Growth in the apparel industry could be the catalyst to the Haitian economy potentially employing 150,000 people within years and bring.
The United States is Haiti’s number one trading partner and textiles accounts for more than half of all exports. Other major items exported include oil, mangoes, cocoa, and coffee. The United States receives more than 70 percent of these exports with another 9 percent going to the Dominican Republic and 3 percent to Canada. The vast majority of Haitian apparel is exported to the United States, the world’s largest apparel market.
Since 2000, the United States has implemented several trade preference programs to facilitate trade with Haiti. Under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, Haiti HOPE and HELP, apparel from Haitian manufacturers has unprecedented duty-free access to the U.S. market. These trade preferences have been the fuel for the growth of the Haitian economy. In 2010, imports of Haitian apparel into the United States valued more than $500 million, representing more than 90 percent of exports to the United States. Virtually all of these imports were provided duty-free treatment under U.S. trade preference programs. Trade data indicates that imports from Haiti are increasing over last year, and there is growing interest in the apparel industry from the United States and other foreign investors. The Haitian apparel industry is poised to grow stronger than it has been in decades.
To help Haitian manufacturers make the most of their opportunities with importers, retailers and brands, participation in trade events that showcase their capabilities is essential. MAGIC, held in Las Vegas just this week, is largest textile and apparel trade show held in the United States, with tens of thousands of attendees from over 80 countries, generating more than $200 million in per-day order volume. This year, with the assistance of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Haitian apparel manufacturers participated in SOURCING at MAGIC, and have the opportunity to connect with 85 percent of the top 50 retailers to build new relationships. SOURCING at MAGIC highlighted Sourcing in the Americas, which promotes and highlights opportunities in the Western Hemisphere’s supply chain. The potential for new business from MAGIC is one that Haitian manufacturers are eager to develop.
However, SOURCING at MAGIC is not the only big news going on it Haiti today. The Haitian government is very excited about the major contraction of their first industrial park, which is due to begin in 2012. All credits go to Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd., Korea’s leading garment manufacturer, who closed a deal with Development Bank to build an industrial park in the Haiti’s North Corridor. Representatives are anticipating that the park will create 20,000 full-time Haitian jobs in the first phase, making Sae-A’s the largest private employer in Haiti. Also generate $500 million in wages and benefits in the next ten years, with each worker earning 3-4 times more than Haiti’s current GDP. The industrial park will also include the construction of at least 5,000 new homes. And lastly directly support the livelihoods of 100,000 to 120,000 Haitians. Now equipped with the proper tools and support Haiti will surly make and speedy and promising recovery. The United States and supporters of Haiti are eager to see what’s next in Haiti.