Pushing for a renewal of trade benefits without a serious look at
the negative impacts these jobs provide is very short sighted. If
Wyclef was serious about promoting jobs that are good for Haitians, he
would consider a more nuanced approach which would force those that set
up shop in Haiti to also respect freedom of association, safe working
conditions, and a wage that will support a family. There are currently
factory workers that struggle on a daily basis, and simply renewing the
trade rules for Haiti will do little to help improve the quality of
living for Haitians.
Finally, if Wyclef was really serious about providing jobs, he would
take a look at the factories that produce his own clothing that is sold
at concerts, t-shirt shops, and record stores. Musicians don't often
want to put their money where their mouth is. I challenge Wyclef to
use his power to demand that his clothing be produced in Haitian
factories under conditions that abide by national and international law.
This blog is in response to:
Wyclef Hits Capitol to Push Haiti Bill
By Kristi Ellis
Friday, November 17, 2006
Women's Wear Daily
WASHINGTON - The world of music, politics and fashion collided on
Hill Wednesday as high-level Haitian government officials joined forces
with hip-hop musician Wyclef Jean to lobby members of Congress to pass
a bill enhancing apparel trade benefits for the island nation before
they adjourn for the year.
Jean, who was born in Haiti, said he donned his "Joe college" duds -
an oxford shirt under a pullover with striped tie, plaid pants and hip
leather sneakers - to make the case for expanding apparel trade with
Haiti. He was part of a delegation, comprising Haitian government
officials and several apparel manufacturers, who met with Reps. Charles
Rangel (D., N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the House Ways & Means
Committee next year, Clay Shaw (R., Fla.), Jerry Weller (R., Ill.) and
Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Ohio).
"For me, it's very important because what I'm trying to do in the
next 10 to 15 years is to get investors excited about Haiti again,"
said Jean, whose uncle, Raymond Joseph, is the ambassador to Haiti.
"Apparel is important because it provides jobs. I'm here lobbying for
this bill because if we can give 10,000 people jobs instantly, it sends
a signal to investors that says the doors are really open for Haiti."
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has been
losing apparel production to China and Central American and Caribbean
countries since the major trading partners around the world removed
quotas on apparel and textile products in 2005. As a result, apparel
employment in Haiti has fallen from a peak of 100,000 jobs to less than
20,000, a change that could threaten fledgling democratic reforms and
destabilize the region, Haitian officials warned. The delegation
pressed Congressional members to pass legislation introduced by Rep.
Bill Thomas (R., Calif.) that would enhance the duty free benefits for
Haiti through a 50 percent value-added rule that increases to a 60
percent requirement in the fifth year in a lame-duck session in
December. But the Thomas bill, which also contains an extension of
trade benefits for sub-Saharan African countries, has met
opposition from textile-state lawmakers, who succeeded in blocking it
from an expedited vote in the House in September. The House members
argued in a letter to Republican leaders that the expanded benefits for
Haiti would allow companies to use Chinese fabric and yarns, which
would displace U.S. business in Haiti and "devastate" the U.S. textile
Richard Coles, president of Multitex, an apparel division of Sirius
Group, based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, also would like to see more
T-shirts with Made in Haiti labels.
"The provisions within the bill will have a direct and immediate
impact on the woven part of the business and I think that we will get
7,000 to 10,000 immediate jobs," Coles said. He added that Hanesbrands
Inc. and Gildan are two of the largest foreign companies sourcing
apparel, primarily T-shirts, in Haiti.
According to Coles, 12 apparel companies have shut down in Haiti in
the past few years, leaving approximately 30 operating in the country.
Coles also has laid off workers. At its peak, Multitex employed 6,000
people and it currently employs 3,700, he said. But he acknowledged it
would be an uphill battle in Congress.