Ambassador Sison Remarks at the AmCham Welcome Reception

Honorable Members of the Government,
President of the Supreme Court
Cabinet Ministers,
Members of Parliament,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
President of AmCham,
Members of the Board and Members of AmCham
Distinguished guests:

Thank you, Daniel, for your kind words.

And thank you, AmCham.

I am so glad to have this opportunity to meet with you this evening.

All of you — the AmCham President, Board, and members — are key players in advancing the pro-business trade and investment policies that create jobs and spur economic growth in the United States and here in Haiti — in partnership with us at the U.S. Embassy and with the Government of Haiti.

You, the private sector and AmCham, are making decisions today that will help determine a bright economic and investment partnership for both our countries:  the United States and Haiti.

I know that AmCham Haiti, as an active member of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean (ACLA), is leveraging this relationship with ACLA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for the benefit of AmCham’s membership.

Although I have spent my career as a U.S. diplomat, I want to share with you my own connection to the family of American Chambers of Commerce.

During the summer between my first and second years at university, I was an intern at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.  in the International Affairs Division.

This Division of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a strong advocate for free enterprise, competitive markets, and rules-based trade and investment worldwide.

I was convinced during that internship so many decades ago that this approach truly is the path to opportunity and prosperity for all of us around the world.

During that time, I also saw the powerful role that the U.S. Chamber and AmChams around the world play in advocating for the private sector and encouraging economic growth.

And as I embarked on my career as a diplomat, I never forgot that experience.

Just a few years after that internship I came to Haiti as a young U.S. diplomat on my first overseas assignment.

And subsequently, during the course of my diplomatic career, I’ve sought to strengthen the AmCham partnership in each place I’ve served.

I truly believe in your Amcham mission: to advocate for the private sector.

I believe, just as you do, that pro-business trade and investment policies spur economic growth.

AmCham Haiti understands this role as its core function.

I want to congratulate the newly-elected AmCham Haiti President, M. Laurent Saint- Cyr, and the new board — which I might add now counts five women among its eleven members.

Warmest congratulations to the new board on their election!

Since my arrival as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti in February, in my travels around this beautiful country and here in the capital, I’ve witnessed a clear expression of the Haitian people’s desire to engage with America.

Much credit for this goes to you, the business community.

I’ve always been proud of the corporate social responsibility efforts of American business, and I’m glad that AmCham has chosen to focus on these efforts, as well.

As AmCham members, you appreciate the opportunity that exists for increasing trade and supporting employment in the United States and here in Haiti.

You understand the importance of the promotion and protection of fair labor standards as a core U.S. value.

You, as AmCham, are uniquely qualified to draw attention to the facts of our dynamic U.S.-Haiti partnership, and to work with us at the U.S. Embassy to explain to our American and Haitian publics how this partnership benefits every one of us.

The U.S. is very engaged in the region – in fact, the U.S. – Caribbean 2020 strategy focuses on increasing private sector investment in the Caribbean.

Just last week, the U.S. Embassy welcomed four U.S. companies that visited Haiti as part of the U.S. Department of Commerce 2018 Trade Mission to the Caribbean Region.

These U.S. companies explored opportunities for U.S. business in Haiti’s agribusiness, healthcare, tourism, and energy sectors.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk at length with these U.S. company representatives.

Let me tell you, they were very impressed with what they saw here and  with the private and public sector leaders they met.

I know some of you met them, too; they truly appreciated the helpful analysis and advice from AmCham members.

We at the U.S. Embassy want to promote U.S. exports, which not only create jobs in the U.S., but also provide high-quality American products and services that are in great demand in Haiti.

In fact, during the Miami portion of the recent U.S. Department of Commerce facilitated trip last week I just described, our Economic Officer met with 25 additional companies interested in various sectors in Haiti (including IT, healthcare, agriculture, light industry, consulting, tourism, engineering, and natural disaster preparedness).

Just as AmCham offers a “Red Carpet” program for businesses interested the opportunities Haiti offers, the U.S. Embassy through our U.S. Department of Commerce, offers a “Gold Key” service.

We want to ensure that U.S. companies can compete on a level playing field here in Haiti and operate in an open and fair environment.

President Moise has spoken often about his Administration’s vision, “ to ensure stronger and sustainable economic growth and maintain the macroeconomic stability essential for the country’s development.”

As the United States, we want to support the Haitian people and the Haitian government in achieving these goals.

I know we all want to see a Haiti where the full talents of its people are unleashed, as well as a Haitian-U.S. economic partnership that reaches its full potential.

Improving and strengthening activities along the value chain is a key U.S. priority here in Haiti through projects and programs designed to increase output and incomes.

For example, USAID provides vocational training as well as practical skills for the workplace and business management.

USAID also offers incentives to financial intermediaries to facilitate easier access to equity money and to credit for small and medium enterprises.                                                                    ~

We are also very interested in developing public-private partnerships.

USAID is leveraging partnerships with the private sector in Haiti to improve social and economic conditions, as well as to enhance development impact.

These public-private partnerships include a health project called REPARE that partners with the St. Boniface Haiti foundation, Kellogg Foundation, and the GE Foundation to repair biomedical equipment.

We are also very proud of an agricultural project that helps about 18,000 farmers increase yields for sorghum.

This USAID-supported SMASH program works with one of AmCham’s members, BRANA, to improve the lives of these farmers by providing them with a more efficient market in which to sell their product.

But nowhere is our U.S. economic partnership more apparent than at the Caracol Industrial Park.

The businesses at the Caracol Industrial Park have provided direct employment to more than 13,000 Haitians.

USAID also financed the construction of a power plant at Caracol that provides 24-hour a day electricity on a commercial basis to the Industrial Park and the surrounding community.

We are now working to increase private sector participation in the operation and expansion of the power plant, both for the industrial park and to the surrounding communities.

The electricity that flows to 12,000 customers in the nearby towns has allowed many other small businesses to spring up and flourish, which demonstrate that the indirect benefits of the Caracol Project continue to grow.

This is an exciting time to be here in Haiti as a U.S. diplomat, and to be working together with AmCham to promote economic growth in both our countries.

It’s also exciting because we see a rapidly changing relationship between private enterprise and the international development community.

Leaders in both sectors are figuring out how to take the unique capabilities of each, public and private, and apply them to challenges that neither side can fully address alone.

We’re welcoming into the development conversation the creativity and the entrepreneurship that only the private sector can bring to the table.

And because we don’t believe that development assistance should ever be seen by our partners as inevitable —  or as a substitute for what can be taken on by countries themselves  —  we’ve made clear that the purpose of our development assistance should be, one day, to end the need for its existence.

We want to work with you in the private sector to help unleash Haiti’s entrepreneurial talents and activity — economic activity that energizes inclusive economic growth and raises living standards and self-sufficiency.

Now, I also want to take a moment to address the members of parliament who are with us this evening.

You, too, have an essential role to play in Haiti’s economic growth.

Your counterparts in the United States Congress came together several years ago to pass the HOPE and HELP legislation, which gave garment and apparel producers in Haiti duty-free access to the U.S. market.

Today, we see the results of this action not only in the 13,000 jobs created at the Caracol Industrial Park, but also in the nearly 50,000 jobs that now exist in the garment and apparel sector throughout Haiti.

I hope that this will inspire the honorable parliamentarians present in the audience tonight, too, to develop strong initiatives with the private sector and executive branch here in Haiti to bolster economic growth and show the world that Haiti is “open for business.”

Now, in recent weeks, our U.S. Administration has made very clear our position on economic growth in the region.

Vice President Pence described our U.S. engagement at the recent OAS meeting, noting that “the United States is the number one trading partner in the Western Hemisphere, and we are by far the single largest source of foreign direct investment in the region as a whole.”

And last week, our U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley, underscored this when she addressed the Conference of the Americas, stating “The prosperity of the United States is critically tied to the prosperity of the hemisphere.”

We want to work together to attract increased domestic and foreign direct investment that will create economic growth here in Haiti; bring new management, organizational and technological skills to local companies; and foster innovation in newly- emerging sectors.

And of course, we seek to support Haiti’s economic growth through our support for President Moise’s “seven priority axes.”

Our U.S. programs here align with and directly support these Haitian government priorities.

I should add that President Moise, the Haitian and American business communities, and we at the U.S. Embassy have all identified the fight against smuggling and the need for well-coordinated efforts to strengthen customs and border protection as priorities to improve Haiti’s domestic revenue collection.

To support Haiti in its development journey, we want to support programs that incentivize reform, strengthen in-country capacity, and mobilize domestic resources.

For example, I recently visited a USAID project operating in Les Cayes that provides technical assistance to Direction Générale des Impots to strengthen revenue administration, enhance tax compliance, and improve domestic resource mobilization.

We are providing similar assistance to the Administration Generale des Douanes through USAID.

And through the State Department’s INL program, we provide assistance to the Haitian National Police to combat cross- border smuggling through our support for the POLIFRONT.

We also want to work together on intellectual property rights protection and enforcement, without which it is difficult for innovative companies to compete on a level playing field.

But this strong U.S.-Haiti economic partnership only succeeds when businesses can prosper in a climate that promotes economic growth.

Security, good governance, and transparency are all key factors to support such growth.

Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Sullivan recently emphasized the importance of good governance, noting that “Underpinning our economic engagement is respect for the rule of law and shared values.”

And U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley to the UN emphasized this issue at the Conference of the Americas last week, noting that “democracies respect the rule of law and the rights of their people.  And these are the preconditions for economic growth and hemispheric security.  Poverty, corruption, and violence continue to be challenges that all countries face.  The difference is how – or if – a government addresses those issues.”

Of course President Moise has reminded us all that : “Fighting corruption, in addition to being a national obligation, is part of a series of requirements essential to globalization and the economic integration of all countries around the world.”

My point in citing these various leaders is this:  there is broad agreement that rule of law, transparency, and good governance are essential components of the path to prosperity, and I know that you all agree with that sentiment.

Finally, I want to say word about working with you and the vibrant and dynamic Haitian American Chambers of Commerce and other diaspora organizations in the United States.

We , as the U.S. Embassy. and you as AmCham already have amazing partnerships going with these groups in Florida, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Utah.

I am here this evening with a number of members of our U.S. Embassy team.

I hope you will have a chance to chat with me and my colleagues following the formal portion of this program.

We are all here to promote our great U.S. Embassy partnership with AmCham and with Haiti.

Thank you, AmCham, for your strong voice in advocating for U.S. business and the private sector.

Together with AmCham and the government of Haiti, we at the U.S. Embassy believe we can create new opportunities for our shared prosperity.

I want to close with my assurance to you of “shared desire to build together the solid foundations of a respectful and successful cooperation in our endeavor to promote the progress of our two countries, Haiti and the United States”.

(Thank you and I look forward to taking a few questions from the AmCham membership.)##