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Rick Wade: Remarks at "Building a New Haiti: Commerce, Business, Investment” Conference, Montrouis, Haiti

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Thursday, June 10, 2010



Senior Advser and Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Wade
Remarks at
"Building a New Haiti: Commerce, Business, Investment” Conference, Montrouis, Haiti

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for that kind introduction. 

I would like to thank our hosts – the American Chambers of Commerce in Haiti and the Dominican Republic – for their work in putting together this conference. 

In particular, I'd like to give a nod to Bill Malamud, President of AMCHAM- DR, and Rene Max Auguste, President of AMCHAM-Haiti.  

I would also like to thank our Commercial Service staff in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for their ongoing work to assist in Haiti. 

So thanks to Bob Jones, Megan Schildgen and Maria Elena Portorreal for your dedication and for being such good partners.

I just hit the ground a few hours ago, and I am eager to hear everyone's ideas for how we can keep Haiti moving forward in the wake of this terrible tragedy.

As Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, I have been leading the Commerce Department’s efforts to assist Haiti since January’s devastating earthquake.

And I want all of you to know that the rebuilding and revitalization of Haiti are very much a priority for my boss, Secretary Locke; and his boss, President Obama.

Since January's earthquake, the President has mounted a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives in Haiti that included the involvement of the US military and a wide array of U.S. federal agencies.

But even as we helped the people of Haiti respond immediately to the crisis, the president reminded us that, “as the tremors fade and Haiti no longer tops the headlines or leads the evening news, our mission will be to help the people of Haiti to continue on the path to a brighter future.”

So I want to be clear.  This is a long-term commitment for the United States.

Over the past few months, I have been traveling across the United States to help galvanize U.S. cities and the Haitian diaspora to help this nation's recovery.  I’ve been to Washington, DC; Brooklyn; Miami; and Philadelphia and seen up close the intense devotion that Haitians living in America have for their home country. 

This conference is a culmination of those efforts.  We’re on the ground here in Haiti to identify the areas of need and the opportunities for cooperation. 

The turnout by the private sector at this conference is extraordinary – and reflects the tremendous amount of interest and commitment by the private sector in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the United States to rebuilding Haiti. 

In my office in Washington, we are receiving calls from companies large and small everyday asking:

  • How can we help?
  • What can we do?
  • What do you need?

I’m confident this conference will translate all that pent-up desire to help, into tangible action.  And lord knows there is a lot to do.

The earthquake that took so many Haitian lives also destroyed over 100,000 homes, 1,000 schools and 50 hospitals.  U.S. companies and their private sector partners in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have the logistical and technical resources to help rebuild Haiti's infrastructure.  At this conference, we just need to connect them with the specific needs.

But we are here to partner with the people of Haiti not to just rebuild and recover, but to identify a long-term strategy to reduce poverty and spur sustainable economic growth.

The government of Haiti has already laid out an ambitious Action Plan to achieve these goals, which includes:

  • diversifying their economy into different sectors and in different regions;
  • and further developing critical infrastructure like ports, airports, sanitation and telecommunications that will allow them to compete in a global economy.

As we move forward, we know that the people of Haiti will chart their own path. 

But the United States, and in particular, the U.S. private sector, has an indispensable role to play in spurring investment in Haiti and helping Haiti nurture domestic industries ranging from agriculture to textiles.

During the United Nations Donor Conference on March 31 in New York, the United States pledged $1.15 billion for long-term recovery assistance.

But helping Haiti is not just about aid money and humanitarian relief.  It is also about making Haiti strong and stable.  It is about helping Haiti realize its true potential. 

On May 7, the Administration welcomed the passing of HELP for Haiti by Congress, which among other things, will expand Haiti’s duty-free access to the U.S. clothing market under two separate programs.  For Haiti’s garment sector, which employed about 25,000 people before the earthquake, this represents a major opportunity for export led growth and job creation

But this legislation, and other measures like it, will accomplish little or nothing without the private sector.

Haitian President Preval said it best at the Multinational Donors Conference at the United Nations on March 31: 

“Close collaboration is needed between the private sector, the engine of wealth, and the State which will take all necessary measures to provide Haiti with the legal and regulatory framework to meet requirements of a modern country open to investment.”

If the United States can help Haiti turn President Preval’s words into action, then investors, development, jobs and economic stability will follow.

And if that happens, the people of Haiti, their children, and their grandchildren will have a safer and more prosperous future to look forward to.

That is a goal worth working for.  Thank you, I can't wait to get to work.