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Secretary of Commerce Hosts Haiti Reconstruction Business Dialogue

April 30, 2010

Jennifer Wenger started working for the International Trade Administration one year ago.  She is an international trade specialist in the Market Access and Compliance unit’s Office of North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Haiti Reconstruction Business Dialogue.  Hosted on April 20 by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, with keynote remarks by Haitian Minister Patrick Delatour, the event yielded an overwhelming 400 attendees who came with an interest in leveraging private sector participation to assist in Haiti’s rebuilding.   Representatives of the U.S. and Haitian business communities engaged in a lively dialogue with private sector and U.S. government panelists.  The unexpected presence of recording artist Wyclef Jean added some starpower to the program, including his “tweets” to his 1.4 million followers on Twitter.


Download full video .mp4 (88MB)

Attendees used every free moment to network.  During the Q&A, the audience members asked great questions about the meaning of the international community’s pledges and where to learn about procurement opportunities.   USAID’s Haiti Task Team Coordinator Paul Weisenfeld explained that the $1.15 billion pledge made by the U.S. Government must be approved by Congress before these monies become available to fund projects.  Other panelists pointed the participants to useful websites or provided guidance on submitting proposals. Despite the devastating losses that the people of Haiti experienced and the challenges ahead, the tone of panelists, participants and especially Minister Delatour, was hopeful.  Minister Delatour cited the Port-au-Prince Hotel Montana, which was destroyed in the earthquake, as “a symbol of the resilience” of the Haitian population as he reported that the hotel’s owners have declared their intention to rebuild.  The Minister emphasized that the goal is to not just to rebuild but to “build back Haiti better.”


Download full video .mp4 (88MB)

Secretary Locke stressed the importance of supporting Haiti as an Administration priority and addressed the private sector saying, “You will play a critical role in providing these opportunities through trade and investment that will benefit people in both Haiti and the United States.”   Participants and speakers alike agreed that the governments, NGOs and the private sector must work cooperatively to rebuild an economically sustainable Haiti.


Download full video .mp4 (88MB)