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Rebuilding Haiti, Stitch by Stitch

May 25, 2011

Maria Dybczak is an international trade specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel.

Today my office, the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA), gave a virtual welcome to about 85 people as they participated in a one-hour Webinar on U.S. trade preferences for imports of Haitian textiles and apparel. The participants came from both the private and public sectors, and included representatives of leading U.S. retailers and importers, U.S. and Haitian manufacturers, as well as Congressional committee staff and senior officials from other U.S. agencies.

Ever since the earthquake of January 2010 that brought such incredible devastation to Haiti, ITA has been working closely with other federal agencies, the Haitian government, and U.S. retailers and importers to encourage recovery and to better assure the long-term sustainability of the Haitian economy.

One of these efforts is focused on the Haitian textile and apparel industry. Apparel makes up more than 80 percent of imports from Haiti to the United States. And as the largest manufacturing sector in Haiti, the apparel industry plays an important role in attracting long-term investment and opportunities.

The availability of duty-free access to the United States, the world’s largest apparel market, provides an enormous competitive advantage to Haitian producers. As a result, the value of apparel imports from Haiti increased by 20 percent over the past 12 months, representing nearly $600 million. It has been estimated that new development in the textile and apparel sector could create at least 20,000 new jobs in Haiti by 2013.

It’s trade such as this—which builds on Haiti’s existing economic strengths—that will help Haiti recover from the devastation of a year ago.

If you would like to listen to an audio recording of the Webinar, or see a copy of OTEXA’s presentation, they will both be available on the OTEXA website by the end of this week.