Background Briefing on Secretary Clinton's Visit to Cap Haitien
MODERATOR: All right, everybody. We are on our route – we are on our way to Cap Haitien, Haiti. We have with us [Senior State Department Official One] and --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And [Senior State Department Official Two] is also here, who is [Senior State Department Official Two] --
MODERATOR: -- [Senior State Department Official Two], hereafter Senior State Department Officials Number One and Number Two.
Take it away, Number One.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, so first of all, I’m glad all you all are traveling. This is really an opportunity both to celebrate progress that has been happening in Haiti, and also to continue to press for the kind of progress that we want to see, particularly progress on issues like free and fair elections, progress on issues in the justice sector, ensuring that we actually are seeing improvements in the policing and in the courts and in corruption.
But most particularly, I think this is an opportunity to celebrate what has been a unique partnership in being able to achieve the outcomes that have occurred here in the north, and that’s been the level of coordination among, actually, the donors and the government that really has been unique. And that has been that the development in the north has actually seen investments not only in the Industrial Park, which is part of the anchor for the development that’s happening across the north, but also for a set of investments from the airport itself, which has been upgraded so that this plane can actually land but so that other international planes of size can. And there’s a trade delegation that the IDB is hosting today, and there are many members of that delegation who are coming to look at ways in which to consider investing in Haiti. And they all actually traveled and landed in Cap Haitien as well.
We actually are seeing improvements that are actually happening in terms of developments with the university, which the Dominican Republic had actually been a bilateral partner with the Government of Haiti in establishing. We’re making investments in housing, as is the IDB, across the northern region. We’re making investments in agriculture and so too is the IDB. And the park itself really required a level of collaboration for all of us to be able to understand how to play specific roles so that we could ultimately end up seeing a successful anchor for the development that’s in the north. And we’re looking forward to this being a successful visit in that regard.
There are a number of things that we are hoping to be able to see on the trip, both in terms of not only the improvements in the airport and the runway and everything like that, but also being able to go by a new housing development that is being supported by the Government of Haiti and the United States in building some of the first units that have running water and electricity, that are being newly developed. You’re going to see about a hundred of those that are on its way to about 750 or so in that development. We’re also going to be able to have a chance to see the new power plant, which is about 10 megawatts, but it’s going to – actually providing power to the plant and actually starting to supply power to the surrounding community to a few families. It will ultimately grow to 25 megawatts and provide power to about a hundred thousand businesses and families in the area, which also will be the first time for that region.
So we’re looking forward to this trip, and I’d be happy to take any questions unless there’s anything [Senior State Department Official Two] would want to add.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No, no, no, (inaudible).
QUESTION: I’ll start. Specifically on the Caracol – I mean, we’ve heard some controversy surrounding it.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Really? Only a little? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Only a little, and some of the main charges seem to be that it’s in the north and therefore not sort of tied into the specific area of earthquake damage, and that. number two, it’s not – that there’s some land issues and we were expecting, perhaps, protests today. What’s the U.S. Government’s view on these issues about the sort of suitability of it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, thanks for asking that question. Two things: One of the things that the Government of Haiti did when it put out its National Action Plan, both in the previous administration but was adopted by this administration, was a goal for seeing development outside of the Port-au-Prince region, because so much of the devastation that happened in the earthquake happened because of a lot of the overcrowding, because there really weren’t economic opportunities that anchored people in communities outside of Port-au-Prince in the same way that Port-au-Prince did.
And so one of the commitments we took to heart out of their National Action Plan and then followed through was to determine how we could actually make our contribution to helping with what they call decentralization, and that’s how we came to be making investments in the north. We have a lot of investments in Port-au-Prince. We’re making investments in health, and the new hospital there is one of the hospitals that we’re rebuilding – an enormous amount of investments in agriculture. We’ve already touched about 10,000 families that have seen more than 100 percent increases in their crops in corn and rice as well as about 85 percent in beans. And so there’s a lot of investment going there.
A lot of our rule-of-law and justice investments are also happening in the region – that is, in and around Port-au-Prince – as well as infrastructure investments in housing there as well as energy. We are a partner in their overall energy authority and helping them become a better provider, if you will, and being able to provide more service to more people then.
So there is an enormous amount of investments that we are doing in Port-au-Prince, but we also felt an obligation to be responsive to the government’s goal of seeing decentralization happen in Port-au-Prince, was one of the areas where we wanted to ensure we were pulling people from so that they were anchored elsewhere. That’s how we came to be invested in the area.
Your second question was about land?
QUESTION: About protests and land rights.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So there’s different protests. So land, I think – in this instance, this land is actually unique on a certain – several levels. This land ultimately was land that was provided by the government, and in particular, the individuals who had farming rights to it have actually been compensated, which is not as – doesn’t happen as often as it should. It has happened in this instance here, and the IDB was actually a very good partner in stepping through, evaluating the land, providing compensation for the crops that were growing there, and even in instances where people didn’t have tenure rights to the land, they still provided compensation. And so that has been actually a very positive story for the IDB’s work in that regard, and our partnership.
In terms of protests, a number of the protests – and I’m going to let [Senior State Department Official Two] speak to this as well – I think are not protests so much about the north. They’re protests that people are feeling concerns about the inflation rate with respect to food and the prices associated with food. And so this is an obviously – potentially an opportunity where people can be able to make that more transparent. I don’t know if we will or won’t see protests, but we know that people have been protesting over the last few weeks to express that kind of concern. And some of it is also political opposition, no different than our own country, where people express their opposition with respect to being publicly organized. This, too, sometimes is organization with respect to the Martelly Administration.
I don't know if you would add more.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I’d just add on the protest last Thursday, there were a number of small protests around. The largest protest, a thousand people, was a pro-Martelly protest, for example. And that doesn’t make the news. The – one of the smaller ones was not too far away from the airport where we’ll be landing, but its’ more to the west, and it was at a very bad section of road where people were protesting to get the road repaired. So, I mean, there are all kinds of protests. A lot of the protests these days are funded, too, by opposition political parties, it seems to me, and aren’t all that spontaneous. So really the level of protest, relatively speaking, has been pretty low recently.
QUESTION: But given this protests, you have full confidence in the government of Mr. Martelly and Mr. Lamothe to ensure stability for Haiti?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think the –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, go ahead. You take it.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think the provision of stability is an ongoing challenge in Haiti. And I think this is a popular President, but like all presidents, he has to work hard to maintain the trust of the people. He has to work hard to actually work collaboratively with the parliament, and that has proven to be a challenge, a challenge for both parties to be the kind of partner that they can be to each other. And so I don’t know that this government has different challenges than many governments and certainly not different challenges than governments here in Haiti have had.
QUESTION: Will the State Department be involved at all or keep an eye on workers’ rights at the park there?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks for asking that. Secretary Solis is traveling with us, and one of the unique aspects about the HOPE and the HELP legislation, which actually provides duty-free access to our markets, is it actually has one of the strictest compliance regimes for labor in the world. It actually even allows individual level action to be taken against specific manufacturers or other partners. And so in order to actually be able to stay current and stay active and to continue to actually have duty-free access to our markets, it requires a level of compliance that you don’t see anywhere else in the world, because HOPE and HELP actually added those levels of additional strictures when those legislations was passed.
So we will stay committed and focused. We are, because each year Congress requires a specific report that does an item-by-item review of the different manufacturers and partners who are engaged in labor activity in Haiti in order to continue their access to the HOPE and HELP privileges. And so we are expecting to continue to be a good partner in that regard.
QUESTION: Would it be specific to Haiti, or could the U.S. use its influence with these companies and factories in other parts of the world?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, the HOPE and HELP legislation is both Haiti-based, but obviously the United States Government is committed to seeing good labor practices in all the spaces where we have the opportunity to influence. And certainly we try to use our leverage and influence both through our embassies and our partnerships on the ground to do that.
QUESTION: Would that be a response to criticisms of the Sae-A company and its record in Guatemala? Is that sort of –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, two things: One, Sae-A actually gave a point-by-point review with respect to that, as did USTR, and so I commend those both to you. But I think this is actually not only with respect to Sae-A, it’s every company that does business in Haiti that has requirements that are going to allow it to export to our market. And in – like all the other companies, Sae-A too will have to adhere to that strict regime. It is sometimes a regime that makes people choose not to come to Haiti if they want to export to the United States because it’s not present in enough in places. But it is present here, and I think it’s important.
QUESTION: There have also been some major environmental concerns, particularly related to coral in areas that – where you might build ports to help with exporting these products. Can you address what’s being done to ensure that that isn’t a concern?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I think it’s always a concern, whenever you’re doing any type of development, that you are taking care of the environment. And certainly the waste water treatment that’s put in place actually at the Caracol Park, is a state-of-the-art plant and actually is creating, oddly, a unique improvement with respect to that area, primarily because the filtering and other activity that has happening has been happening in a different way than what’s been historically flowing into the Caracol Bay.
As we look at what – how to think through the port matter, we obviously are going to work closely with the government. But our requirements are that we actually have to adhere to relatively strict environment protection and other requirements, and so that’s going to have to be an analysis and an impactful assessment in making a determination about how and if we can go forward as partners with the Government of Haiti if there are environmental matters that can’t be mitigated. And we obviously would work hard to mitigate any environmental issues that were identified. But in the end, we also – we have limitations on our ability to be a partner if we’re not able to satisfactorily address the environmental concerns.
QUESTION: And if the environmental concerns did preclude the development of new ports, is it realistic to assume that all of the exports from this new factory can – or this new park, can go through a neighboring country?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, there’s two things. There’s obviously – Cap Haitien has its port itself, and so a lot of our activities also have been looking at how we upgrade that particular port as well. And so that is one part of our investments that we are going to be making, which will obviously be impactful for people who are doing development around the northern region. And a number of people obviously use the port of Manzanillo right over in the DR.
And so our goal is to try and ensure that we’re creating the best opportunity for effective exports and imports here in Haiti, and we will obviously make that analysis based on what are the options that are available.
MODERATOR: Anything else? [Senior State Department Official Two], no?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. I mean, we’re still doing studies on the port. So – environmental and other studies, so we really can’t tell you what the bottom line is there, but it’s being carefully considered.
MODERATOR: Good. Thanks, everybody.