Miami-Dade launching Haiti trade trip
By Lou Ortiz
Miami-Dade County will make its first-ever trade mission trip to Haiti this month to try expand business and economic ties with the island nation.
The mission is being organized by the Economic Development and International Trade Unit of the County Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, and will be led by Commissioner Jean Monestime.
The mission, dubbed "Miami-Dade County Business Development to Haiti 2012," will take place Oct. 21-24.
Mr. Monestime is the vice chairman of the International Trade Consortium's board of directors.
"Miami-Dade County has never taken a trade mission to Haiti before, and Haiti is an important trading partner for South Florida," said Mr. Monestime, the first Haitian-American elected to the commission. "Whether new to market or looking to expand current trade with Haiti, I expect the participating local companies to come away with new business prospects, partnerships and joint ventures, and sales."
In April, County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and Mr. Monestime visited the capital of Port-au-Prince and met with senior Haitian government officials about strengthening commercial and economic ties between the island and the county.
"Mayor Gimenez and I highlighted the important commercial relations between Miami-Dade County and Haiti during our April 2012 visit to Port-au-Prince," Mr. Monestime said. "The Sister Airport Agreement that we signed with the Port-au-Prince officials will expand our opportunities in that area."
The sister airport agreement between Miami International Airport and Port-au-Prince Toussaint Louverture Airport aims to promote cargo and passenger traffic between the facilities, among other things. The county commission approved the agreement this year.
According to Mario E. Goderich, assistant director of the business affairs division of the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, the objectives of the October mission "are to highlight the county's unique assets as an international trade hub, and to explore commercial and business opportunities for our private sector participants." The island is "the beneficiary of a trade preferences program with the United States," he said, "which includes the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Act (HOPE 1), that was passed by the US Congress in 2006."
According to the county, the Act "includes special trade rules that give preferential access to US imports of Haitian apparel."
"The mission to Haiti is designed to assist small business in Miami-Dade develop commercial opportunities in new markets," Mr. Goderich said in letter last month to potential business mission participants.
"During the mission, participants will meet with high-level government officials, receive in-country briefings, network with Haitian businesses, and participate in pre-arranged business-to-business match-making meetings with local companies," he said.
Haiti is the US's 89th largest trading partner with two-way trade totaling $1.8 billion in 2011, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington. The US is the island's No. 1 trading partner and No. 25 for Miami-Dade.
The trade office said US goods to Haiti totaled $1.1 billion in 2011 and imports from the island were $742 million, with a US trade surplus of $320 million. US exports to Haiti were down 12.2%, or $148 million, from 2010.
Top US exports to Haiti included relief articles totaling $303 million; cereals,$172 million; electrical machinery, $89 million; meat (beef), $65 million; and general machinery, $63 million. Exports of agricultural products to the island totaled $332 million; rice, $166 million; poultry, $64 million; and animal fats, $14 million, according to the trade office.
Imports from Haiti in 2011 increased 34.7%, or $191 million over 2010, the trade office said. They included knit apparel totaling $568 million; woven apparel, $134 million; fruits and nuts, $11 million; cocoa, $6 million; and miscellaneous returns, $4 million. Agricultural imports totaled $22 million in 2011.
The island has a population of 10.5 million and had a Gross Domestic Product of $12.4 billion in 2011. It has a free market economy and takes part in the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, which, among other things, allows for duty free export of many Haitian products assembled from US components and materials, according to the county.
"The Government of Haiti has made a commitment to improving the business environment, and has enacted a series of reforms designed to foster commercial security and to streamline regulations for new business activity. Financial incentives are available for investment opportunities in certain sectors," according to the county's Haiti trade mission information.
"The best market prospects for US businesses exist in the following sectors: air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, apparel and textiles, building and construction, health and sanitary services, IT and telecommunication equipment, leisure and hospitality, pharmaceuticals, professional and technical services, and renewable energy," the trade mission information said.
The Economic Development and International Trade Unit is part of the Business Affairs Division of the County's Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources. The unit's job is to "facilitate economic development opportunities in the areas of business growth and expansion, international trade and commerce, and film and entertainment; and to promote Miami-Dade County as a global gateway," the county website says.
Haiti suffered tens of thousands of deaths and massive damage from a devastating earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, that reduced much of Port-au-Prince to rubble.
"A study by the Inter-American Development Bank estimated that the total cost of the disaster was between $8 billion and $14 billion, based on a death toll from 200,000 to 250,000," the New York Times reported last month. "That number was revised in 2011 by Haiti's government to 316,000; the government has never explained how it arrived at its death toll figures."
"In June 2011, the International Organization for Migration estimated that 634,000 people were living in displacement camps," according to the report. "International donors promised Haiti $5.3 billion at a March 2010 donors conference."
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