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World > North America > Haiti > Relations with U.S. (Notes)

Haiti - Relations with U.S. (Notes)


U.S.-HAITI RELATIONS
U.S. policy toward Haiti is designed to foster and strengthen democracy; help alleviate poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition; promote respect for human rights; and counter illegal migration and drug trafficking. The U.S. also supports and facilitates bilateral trade and investment along with legal migration and travel. U.S. policy goals are met through direct bilateral action and by working with the international community. The United States has taken a leading role in organizing international involvement with Haiti. The United States works closely with the Organization of American States (OAS; see 'Key OAS Issues'), particularly through the Secretary General's 'Friends of Haiti' group (originally a UN group that included the U.S., Canada, France, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina which was enlarged in 2001 to add Germany, Spain, Norway, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and The Bahamas), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and individual countries to achieve policy goals.

Maintaining good relations with and fostering democracy in Haiti are important for many reasons, not least of which is the country's geographical proximity to the continental United States. In addition to the many Haitians who receive visas to immigrate into the U.S. (averaging over 13,000 annually in FY 1999-2003), there is a flow of illegal migrants. Over 100,000 undocumented Haitian migrants were intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard in the past two decades, particularly during the 1991-94 period of illegal military rule when more than 67,000 migrants were interdicted. Since the return of the legitimate government in 1994, the interdiction of illegal migrants by U.S. Coast Guard vessels has decreased dramatically, averaging fewer than 1,500 annually. Neighboring Caribbean countries, particularly The Bahamas, continue to interdict Haitian migrants as well. The prospect remains, however, for the renewal of higher flows of illegal migrants, particularly under conditions of political unrest or further economic downturn.

U.S. Economic and Development Assistance
Political insecurity and the failure of Haiti's governments to invest in developing the country's natural and human resources has contributed significantly to the country's current state of underdevelopment. U.S. efforts to strengthen democracy and help build the foundation for economic growth aim to rectify this condition. The U.S. has been Haiti's largest donor since 1973. Between FY 1995 and FY 2003, the U.S. contributed more than $850 million in assistance to Haiti. Since 2004, the U.S. has provided over $600 million for improving governance, security, the rule of law, economic recovery, and critical human needs. The President's budget request for FY 2007 was $198 million. U.S. Government funds have been used to support programs that have addressed a variety of problems. Additional information on U.S. assistance to Haiti can be found at http://www.state.gov/p/wha/rls/fs/2006/77358.htm.

Haiti has been plagued for decades by extremely high unemployment and underemployment. The precipitous decline in urban assembly sector jobs, from a high of over 100,000 in 1986 to fewer than 20,000 in 2006, exacerbated the scarcity of jobs. To revitalize the economy, U.S. assistance attempts to create opportunities for stable sustainable employment for the growing population, particularly in rural areas. More recently, programs that help to increase commercial bank lending to micro-enterprises, especially in the agricultural sector, have helped to create a significant number of jobs. U.S. assistance is channeled primarily through private voluntary agencies and contractors to ensure efficient implementation of U.S. assistance programs.

Combating Drug Trafficking
Haiti is a major transshipment point for South American narcotics, primarily cocaine, being sent to the United States. To counter this threat, the U.S. has taken a number of steps, including vetting and training the counternarcotics division of the Haitian National Police, providing material assistance and training to the Haitian Coast Guard for drug and migrant interdiction, and obtaining the expulsion of several traffickers under indictment in the United States.

U.S. Business Opportunities
The U.S. remains Haiti's largest trading partner. Port-au-Prince is less than 2 hours by air from Miami, with several daily direct flights. A daily flight also connects Port-au-Prince with New York, and a new Port-au-Prince-Fort Lauderdale flight started in 2003. Both Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien on the north coast have deepwater port facilities. Many Haitian entrepreneurs conduct business in English, and U.S. currency circulates freely in Haiti. A number of U.S. firms, including commercial banks, telecommunications, airlines, oil and agribusiness companies, and U.S.-owned assembly plants are present in Haiti.

Further opportunities for U.S. businesses include the development and trade of raw and processed agricultural products; medical supplies and equipment; rebuilding and modernizing Haiti's depleted infrastructure; developing tourism and allied sectors--including arts and crafts; and improving capacity in waste disposal, transportation, energy, telecommunications, and export assembly operations. Haiti's primary assembly sector inputs include textiles, electronics components, and packaging materials. Other U.S. export prospects include electronic machinery, including power-generation, sound and television equipment, plastics and paper, construction materials, plumbing fixtures, hardware, and lumber. Benefits for both Haitian and American importers and exporters are available under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA)--which provides for duty-free export of many Haitian products assembled from U.S. components or materials--the successor program to the Caribbean Basin Initiative, and the HOPE Act, which provides additional duty-free preferences for qualifying apparel/textiles products and automotive wire harnesses.

U.S. export opportunities also exist for four-wheel-drive vehicles, consumer electronics, rice, wheat, flour, animal and vegetable fats, meat, chicken, vegetables, and processed foodstuffs. The Government of Haiti seeks to reactivate and develop agricultural industries where Haiti enjoys comparative advantages, among which are essential oils, spices, fruits and vegetables, and sisal. The government encourages the inflow of new capital and technological innovations. Additional information on business opportunities in Haiti can be found at the Country Commercial Guide for Haiti.

Establishing a Business
Individuals wishing to practice a trade in Haiti must obtain an immigrant visa from a Haitian Consulate and, in most cases, a government work permit. Transient and resident traders must also have a professional ID card.

Property restrictions still exist for foreign individuals. Property rights of foreigners are limited to 1.29 hectares in urban areas and 6.45 hectares in rural areas. No foreigner may own more than one residence in the same district, or own property or buildings near the border. To own real estate, authorization from the Ministry of Justice is necessary.

Hurdles for businesses in Haiti include poor infrastructure, a high-cost port, an irregular supply of electricity, and Customs delays. There is little direct investment.

In November 2002, the Haitian Parliament passed an investment law prohibiting fiscal and legal discrimination against foreign investors. The 2002 law explicitly recognizes the crucial role of foreign direct investment in spurring economic growth and aims to facilitate, liberalize, and stimulate private investment in Haiti. Foreign investment protection is also provided by the Haitian Constitution of 1987, which permits expropriation of private property for public use or land reform with payment in advance. American firms enjoy free transfer of interest, dividends, profits, and other revenues stemming from their investments, and are guaranteed just compensation paid in advance of expropriation, as well as compensation in case of damages or losses caused by war, revolution, or insurrection. The U.S. and Haiti have a bilateral agreement on investment guarantees that permits the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation to offer programs in Haiti. The two governments also signed a bilateral investment treaty in December 1983, but it was not ratified.

Additional information on establishing a business in Haiti can be found at www.export.gov, then to market research, then Country Commercial Guides.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Janet Sanderson
Deputy Chief of Mission--Thomas C. Tighe
Consul General-- Donald Moore (as of September 2007)
Public Affairs Officer--James Ellickson-Brown
USAID Director--Paul Tuebner

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti is located on 5, Harry Truman Blvd., Port-au-Prince.

Contact Information
U.S. Commercial Service does not have a separate office in Haiti. Commercial matters are handled by the Embassy economic section.
Tel: (509) 223-1477
Fax: (509) 223-9038
Cell: (509) 409-1441

Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)
1615 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20527
Tel: (202) 457-7200
Fax: (202) 331-4234

U.S. Department of Commerce
14th and Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20230

Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
Tel: (202) 482-0704
Fax: (202) 482-0464
Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 466-7464
Fax: (202) 822-0075

Association des Industries d'Haiti (ADIH)
Bldg. Le Triangle Delmas 31, #139
Port-au-Prince
Tel: (509) 246-4509/4510 or 2211

Centre Pour la Libre Entreprise et la Democratie (CLED)
37, Avenue Marie-Jeanne,
No. 8 B.P. 1316
Port-au-Prince
Tel: (509) 244-0901 or (509) 245-6039
Fax: (509) 222-8252

Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie d'Haiti
P.O. Box 982
Port-au-Prince
Tel: (509) 222-0281 or (509) 222-2475

Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AMCHAM)
Rue Oge, A-5
Petionville
Republic of Haiti
Tel: (509) 511-3024, fax not available


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Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



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Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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