White House asks US clothing companies to 'Buy Haitian'
The Obama administration on Tuesday asked US clothing companies to source 1 percent of their production from Haiti. The 'Plus One' effort is designed to help the earthquake-ravaged country get back on its feet.
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Haitian officials say the plan, called Plus One, could make a difference in helping the country, since the nation has a history of making garments and a workforce that already has some training. American consumers would be able to tell if their underwear or T-shirts are made in Haiti, because they would have a label with an H with a positive sign in the blue and red colors of the nation.
“One percent may seem small – but it means new jobs and new opportunities for the Haitian people, who so desperately need forward-looking solutions in the wake of January’s devastating earthquakes,” said Ambassador Kirk in a statement.
Already, some major US companies source some of their products from Haiti, including Hanes, Levi Strauss & Co., the Gap, and American Eagle. Some 25,000 workers were employed in Haiti's textile industry before the Jan. 12 earthquake, and accounted for as much as 80 percent of the country's export earnings.
Haitian officials believe the US effort, which is voluntary, could have a positive impact. “It is a good signal,” says Jean Palene Mathurin, chief economic adviser to the prime minister of Haiti in an interview. “This will be very helpful to Haiti.”
Mr. Mathurin says an increase in apparel exports from Haiti will help the nation to also rebuild its ports, electrical grid, and water system.
Some of the factories used to make garments were damaged during the earthquake, including one where as many as 500 people lost their lives. Mathurin says the government is making an assessment of the buildings. “We don’t want to put at risk additional workers,” he says. That said, 75 percent of the textile industry is back up and running.
Haiti business executives believe if more companies made a commitment to source their apparel from Haiti, it could provide a considerable number of new jobs. “There are 12 companies sourcing their product from Haiti, creating 25,000 jobs,” says Richard Coles, Port-au-Prince-based president of Multitex, an apparel division of Sirius Group. “If we can get 50 companies to source from Haiti, we could create thousands of jobs.”