For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Area: 27,750 sq. km. (10,714 sq. mi.); about the size of Maryland. Ile de la Gonave, Ile de la Tortue, and Ile a Vaches comprise Haiti's principal offshore territories.
Cities: Capital--Port-au-Prince (pop. 2 million). Other cities--Cap Haitien (pop. 240,000).
Terrain: Rugged mountains with small coastal plains and river valleys, and a large east-central elevated plateau.
Climate: Warm, semiarid, high humidity in many coastal areas.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Haitian(s).
Population (July 2009 est.): 9,035,536.
Annual population growth rate: (2009 est.) 1.838%.
Ethnic groups: African descent 95%, African and European descent 5%.
Religions (2003 data): Roman Catholic 55%, Protestant 28%, voudou (voodoo) practices pervasive.
Languages: French (official), Creole (official).
Education: Years compulsory--6. Adult literacy (2006 census)--56%.
Health: Child mortality--1 out of 8 children die before they reach the age of five. Life expectancy--62 years (women), 59 years (men).
Independence: January 1, 1804.
Constitution: March 1987.
Branches: Executive--President. Legislative--Senate (30 seats), Chamber of Deputies (99 seats). Judicial--Court of Cassation.
Administrative subdivisions: Ten departments.
Political parties and coalitions: Lespwa, Fanmi Lavalas (FL), Struggling People's Organization (OPL), Open the Gate Party (PLB), Christian Movement for a New Haiti (MOCHRENHA), Tet Ansam, Fusion of Socialist Democrats (FUSION), Grand Center Right Front Coalition, Assembly of Progressive National Democrats (RNDP), Union to Save Haiti, Mobilisation for Haiti's progress, Haitian Democratic and Reform Movement, several others.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2008 est.): 11.59 billion.
Real GDP growth rate (2008 est.): 2.3%.
Per capita GDP (2008 est.): $1,300.
GDP by sector (2006): Agriculture--27%; industry--8%; services--40%; other--25%.
Inflation (2007 est.): 8.1%.
Natural resources: Bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble.
Agriculture (27% of GDP): Products--coffee, mangoes, sugarcane, rice, corn, cacao, sorghum, pulses, other fruits and vegetables.
Industry (8% of GDP): Types--apparel, handicrafts, electronics assembly, food processing, beverages, tobacco products, furniture, printing, chemicals, steel.
Services (40% of GDP): Commerce, hotels and restaurants, government, tourism.
Trade (2006 est.): Total exports f.o.b.--$494.4 million: apparel, mangoes, leather and raw hides, seafood, electrical. Major market--U.S. Total imports f.o.b.--$1.54 billion: grains, soybean oil, motor vehicles, machinery, meat, vegetables, plastics, petroleum.
Note: There are serious problems with national accounts in Haiti, including incomplete coverage and the questionable accuracy of raw data.
Although Haiti averages about 325 people per square kilometer, its population is concentrated most heavily in urban areas, coastal plains, and valleys. About 95% of Haitians are of African descent. The rest of the population is mostly of mixed Caucasian-African ancestry. A few are of European or Levantine heritage. Sixty percent of the population lives in rural areas.
French is one of two official languages, but it is spoken fluently by only about 10% of the people. All Haitians speak Creole, the country's other official language. English and Spanish are increasingly used as second languages among the young and in the business sector.
The dominant religion is Roman Catholicism. Increasing numbers of Haitians have converted to Protestantism through the work of missionaries active throughout the country. Much of the population also practices voudou (voodoo), recognized by the government as a religion in April 2003. Haitians tend to see no conflict in these African-rooted beliefs coexisting with Christian faith.
Although public education is free, the cost is still quite high for Haitian families who must pay for uniforms, textbooks, supplies, and other inputs. Due to weak state provision of education services, private and parochial schools account for approximately 90% of primary schools, and only 65% of primary school-aged children are actually enrolled. At the secondary level, the figure drops to around 20%. Less than 35% of those who enter will complete primary school. Though Haitians place a high value on education, few can afford to send their children to secondary school and primary school enrollment is dropping due to economic factors. Remittances sent by Haitians living abroad are important in paying educational costs.
Large-scale emigration, principally to the U.S.--but also to Canada, the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas and other Caribbean neighbors, and France--has created what Haitians refer to as the Eleventh Department or the Diaspora. About one of every eight Haitians lives abroad.
The Spaniards used the island of Hispaniola (of which Haiti is the western part and the Dominican Republic the eastern) as a launching point from which to explore the rest of the Western Hemisphere. French buccaneers later used the western third of the island as a point from which to harass English and Spanish ships. In 1697, Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France. As piracy was gradually suppressed, some French adventurers became planters, making Saint Domingue, as the French portion of the island was known, the "pearl of the Antilles"--one of the richest colonies in the 18th century French empire.
During this period, African slaves were brought to work on sugarcane and coffee plantations. In 1791, the slave population revolted--led by Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe--and gained control of the northern part of the French colony, waging a war of attrition against the French.
By January 1804, local forces defeated an army sent by Napoleon Bonaparte, established independence from France, and renamed the area Haiti. The impending defeat of the French in Haiti is widely credited with contributing to Napoleon's decision to sell the Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803. Haiti is the world's oldest black republic and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States. Although Haiti actively assisted the independence movements of many Latin American countries, the independent nation of former slaves was excluded from the hemisphere's first regional meeting of independent nations, in Panama in 1826, and did not receive U.S. diplomatic recognition until 1862.
Two separate regimes--north and south--emerged after independence but were unified in 1820. Two years later, Haiti occupied Santo Domingo, the eastern, Spanish-speaking part of Hispaniola. In 1844, however, Santo Domingo broke away from Haiti and became the Dominican Republic. With 22 changes of government from 1843 to 1915, Haiti experienced numerous periods of intense political and economic disorder, prompting the United States military intervention of 1915. Following a 19-year occupation, U.S. military forces were withdrawn in 1934, and Haiti regained sovereign rule.
From February 7, 1986--when the 29-year dictatorship of the Duvalier family ended--until 1991, Haiti was ruled by a series of provisional governments. In March 1987, a constitution was ratified that provides for an elected, bicameral parliament; an elected president that serves as head of state; and a prime minister, cabinet, ministers, and supreme court appointed by the president with parliament's consent. The Haitian Constitution also provides for political decentralization through the election of mayors and administrative bodies responsible for local government.
In December 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide won 67% of the vote in a presidential election that international observers deemed largely free and fair. Aristide took office on February 7, 1991, but was overthrown that September in a violent coup led by army elements and supported by many of the country's economic elite. The coup contributed to a large-scale exodus of Haitians by boat. From October 1991 to September 1994 a de facto military regime governed Haiti. Several thousand Haitians may have been killed during the de facto military rule. Various OAS and UN initiatives to end the political crisis through the peaceful restoration of the constitutionally elected government failed. On July 31, 1994, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 940, which authorized member states to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure of Haiti's military leadership and to restore Haiti's constitutionally elected government to power.
The United States took the lead in forming a multinational force (MNF) to carry out the UN's mandate by means of a military intervention. In mid-September, with U.S. troops prepared to enter Haiti by force, Gen. Raoul Cedras and other top leaders agreed to accept the intervention of the MNF. On September 19, 1994, the first contingents of what became a 21,000-member international force touched down in Haiti to oversee the end of military rule and the restoration of the constitutional government. President Aristide and other elected officials in exile returned on October 15.
Nationwide local and parliamentary elections in June 1995 returned a pro-Aristide, multi-party coalition called the Lavalas Political Organization (OPL) to power at all levels. In accordance with the constitutional bar on succeeding himself, President Aristide agreed to step aside and support a presidential election in December 1995. Rene Preval, a prominent Aristide political ally, took 88% of the vote, and was sworn in to a 5-year term on February 7, 1996, during what was Haiti's first-ever transition between two democratically elected presidents.
In late 1996, former President Aristide broke from the OPL and created a new political party, the Lavalas Family (FL). The OPL, holding the majority of the Parliament, renamed itself the Struggling People's Organization. Initial results of elections in April 1997 for the renewal of one-third of the Senate and creation of commune-level assemblies and town delegations showed victories for FL candidates in most races. However, the elections, which drew only about 5% of registered voters, were plagued with allegations of fraud and not certified by most international observers as free and fair.
The government was unable to organize local and parliamentary elections due in late 1998. In early January 1999, President Preval dismissed legislators whose terms had expired--the entire Chamber of Deputies and all but nine members of the Senate--and converted local elected officials into state employees. The President and Prime Minister then ruled by decree, establishing a cabinet composed almost entirely of FL partisans. First round elections for local councils--ASEC and CASEC, municipal governments, town delegates, the Chamber of Deputies, and two-thirds of the Senate took place on May 21, 2000. The election drew the participation of a multitude of candidates from a wide array of political parties and a voter turnout of more than 60%. Manipulated vote counting by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) prevented run-off elections for eight Senate seats and gave the FL a virtual sweep in the first round. Although the flawed vote count undercut the credibility of the election, Haiti's new Parliament, including the contested Senators, was convened on August 28, 2000.
After this flawed election, Haiti's main bilateral donors re-channeled their assistance away from the government and announced they would not support or send observers to the November elections. Most opposition parties regrouped in an alliance that became the Democratic Convergence. Elections for President and nine Senators took place on November 26, 2000. All major opposition parties boycotted these elections, in which voter participation was estimated at 5%. Jean-Bertrand Aristide emerged as the easy victor of these controversial elections, and the candidates of his FL party swept all contested Senate seats. On February 7, 2001, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was inaugurated as President.
The political stalemate continued, and violence ensued. On July 28, 2001, unknown gunmen attacked police facilities in Port-au-Prince and the provinces. A subsequent government crackdown on opposition party members and former soldiers further increased tensions between Lavalas and Convergence. On December 17, 2001, unidentified gunmen attacked the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. Following the assault, pro-government groups attacked the offices and homes of several opposition leaders. One opposition member was killed. Negotiations between FL and Democratic Convergence were suspended indefinitely.
In January 2002, the OAS Permanent Council adopted Resolution 806 on Haiti that called for government action to address the political stalemate, growing violence, and deterioration in respect for human rights. It also authorized OAS establishment of a Special Mission in Haiti to support implementation of steps called for in Resolution 806. The OAS Special Mission worked with the government on plans to strengthen Haiti's democratic institutions in security, justice, human rights, and governance.
Security continued to deteriorate. Protest strikes and attacks on opposition demonstrations by government-supported gangs hardened attitudes on both sides. The opposition issued a public call for Aristide's removal and announced plans for a transitional government. In March 2003, a high-level joint delegation of the OAS and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) presented demands to President Aristide to restore public security; select new leadership for the Haitian National Police; arrest a notorious gang leader; and disarm the security forces used by government politicians to intimidate opponents.
Events spiraled downward: government-paid thugs violently disrupted a civil society public ceremony July 12 in Cite Soleil; police attacked civil society marches in Cap Haitien August 30 and September 14 and prevented an opposition march scheduled for October 5. Political instability grew throughout fall 2003. In Gonaives, hitherto pro-Aristide gang members led a violent rebellion against government authorities in the city. Government-sponsored repression of opposition protests reached a nadir when on December 5 pro-government gangs entered Haiti's state university campus and broke the legs of the Rector.
Following a meeting with Aristide at the Summit of the Americas in January 2004, Caribbean Community leaders proposed a plan to resolve the political crisis that President Aristide stated he accepted . A high-level international delegation came to Haiti February 21 to obtain agreement on a specific implementation timetable. President Aristide agreed, but the opposition "Democratic Platform" group of political parties and civil society expressed reservations. Meanwhile, the violence in Gonaives culminated February 5 in the "Artibonite Resistance Front" seizing control of the city. Other armed groups opposed to the Aristide government quickly emerged and succeeded in seizing control of many towns, mostly with little resistance from government authorities. By February 28, 2004, a rebel group led by a former police chief, Guy Philippe, advanced to within 25 miles of the capital. On February 29, 2004 Aristide submitted his resignation as President of Haiti and flew on a chartered plane to Africa.
2004-2007 - Interim Government Gives Way to a New Democracy
Following the constitutional line of succession, Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre assumed the presidency and Gerard Latortue was appointed prime minister of the Interim Government of Haiti (IGOH) with the mandate of organizing elections to choose a new government. The interim government managed to organize three rounds of elections with the help of the OAS and UN. The first round of elections for President and Parliament took place peacefully on February 7, 2006, with a turnout estimated at over 60% of registered voters. The elections were considered generally free, fair, transparent, and democratic by national and international observers.
Rene Preval, former President (1996-2001) and former ally to Aristide, won the presidential election with 51.15%. Partial results first showed he fell short of an absolute majority, which triggered demonstrations against alleged fraud. The later decision of the Electoral Council not to count blank ballots gave the victory to Preval. The Parliament, composed of a 30-seat Senate and a 99-member Chamber of Deputies, was elected in two rounds held on February 7 and April 21, 2006. Lespwa is the main political force in both chambers but fell short of the majority. Fusion, UNION, Alyans, OPL, and Fanmi Lavalas have many representatives in both chambers. Preval chose his long-time political associate and former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis to serve again as his Prime Minister. Municipal elections were held December 3, 2006 and April 29, 2007. Some of these local government positions had not been filled in over a decade.
International Presence 1995-2004
After the transition of the 21,000-strong MNF into a peacekeeping force on March 31, 1995, the presence of international military forces that helped restore constitutional government to power was gradually ended. Initially, the U.S.-led UN peacekeeping force numbered 6,000 troops, but that number was scaled back progressively over the next 4 years as a series of UN technical missions succeeded the peacekeeping force. By January 2000, all U.S. troops stationed in Haiti had departed. In March 2000, the UN peacekeeping mission transitioned into a peace-building mission, the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti (MICAH). MICAH consisted of some 80 non-uniformed UN technical advisers providing advice and material assistance in policing, justice, and human rights to the Haitian Government. MICAH's mandate ended on February 7, 2001, coinciding with the end of the Preval administration. The OAS Special Mission has some 25 international police advisors who arrived in summer 2003; is in addition to observing and reporting Haitian police performance, they provide limited technical assistance.
International Presence 2004-Present
At the request of the interim government and the UN, the U.S.-led Multilateral Interim Force, made up of troops from the U.S., Canada, France, and Chile, arrived in Port-au-Prince to ensure stability until the arrival of a UN peacekeeping force.
In April 2004, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1542, which created the UN Stability Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Since that time, the Security Council consistently and unanimously approved the renewal of MINUSTAH's mandate at 6-month intervals. On October 14, 2008, the UNSC voted unanimously to extend MINUSTAH's mandate for 12 months through October 14, 2009. The Stability Mission is currently authorized at 7,060 troops and 2,091 civilian police.
Principal MINUSTAH Officials
Special Representative of the Secretary General--Hedi Annabi (Tunisia)
Force Commander--Major-General Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto (Brazil)
Police Commissioner--Mamadou Mountaga Diallo (Guinea)
Principal Government Officials
President--Rene Preval (since May 14, 2006)
Prime Minister--Michele D. Pierre-Loius
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Alrich Nicolas
Minister of Economy and Finances--Daniel Dorsainvil
Ambassador to the U.S.--Raymond Joseph
Ambassador to the OAS--Duly Brutus, Charge d'Affaires
Ambassador to the UN--Leo Merores, Charge d'Affaires
The Embassy of Haiti is located at 2311 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-332-4090).
Haiti remains the least-developed country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Comparative social and economic indicators show Haiti falling behind other low-income developing countries (particularly in the hemisphere) since the 1980s. Haiti now ranks 146th of 177 countries in the UN's Human Development Index. Haiti's economic stagnation is the result of earlier inappropriate economic policies, political instability, a shortage of good arable land, environmental deterioration, continued reliance on traditional technologies, under-capitalization and lack of public investment in human resources, migration of large portions of the skilled population, a weak national savings rate, and the lack of a functioning judicial system.
The 1991 coup and the irresponsible economic and financial policies of the de facto regime resulted in a sharp economic decline from 1991-94. Following the coup, the United States adopted mandatory sanctions, and the OAS instituted voluntary sanctions aimed at restoring constitutional government. International sanctions culminated in the May 1994 UN embargo of all goods entering Haiti except humanitarian supplies, such as food and medicine. The assembly sector, heavily dependent on U.S. markets, employed over 100,000 workers in the mid-1980s. During the embargo, employment fell below 17,000. Private domestic and foreign investment has returned to Haiti slowly. Since the embargo's end, assembly sector employment has gradually recovered to about 18,500. The Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE), enacted by the U.S. Congress in December 2006, provides new trade preferences for textile/apparel products that could boost production in the sector. However, growth has been stalled by investor concerns over security, lack of access to credit, and legal and physical infrastructure constraints.
Under President Preval (1996-2001), the country's economic agenda included trade/tariff liberalization, measures to control government expenditure and increase tax revenues, civil service downsizing, financial sector reform, and the modernization of two out of nine state-owned enterprises through their sale to private investors, the provision of private sector management contracts, or joint public-private investment. Structural adjustment agreements with international financial institutions (IFIs) intended to create conditions for private sector growth proved only partly successful, however. Workers in Haiti are guaranteed the right of association. Unionization is protected by the labor code. A legal minimum wage of 70 gourdes a day (about U.S. $1.70) applies to most workers in the formal sector.
Haiti's real GDP growth turned negative in FY 2001 after six years of growth. Following almost 4 years of recession ending in 2004, the economy grew by 1.5% in 2005, 2.5% in 2006, and 3.2% in 2007. But significant improvement in living standards would require an estimated doubling of the growth rate. Since the departure of President Aristide, the financial situation has stabilized. Inflation fell from 42.7% at end-2003 to 8.1% for calendar year 2007. The interim government conducted a largely sound fiscal policy, which was followed by the Alexis government. But the traditional low revenue collection rate (roughly 9% of the GDP) constrained its ability to provide social services and invest in physical and human capital. External assistance (approximately $965 million from July 2004 through March 2006) as well as diaspora remittances (estimated at approximately $1.65 billion) remain critical to keeping the economy afloat. In November 2006, Haiti was approved for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) and reached decision point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.
Haiti is one of the original members of the United Nations and several of its specialized and related agencies, as well as a member of the Organization of American States (OAS). It maintains diplomatic relations with several dozen countries.
The international community rallied to Haiti's defense during the 1991-94 period of de facto military rule. Thirty-one countries participated in the U.S.-led multinational force (MNF) which, acting under UN auspices, intervened in September 1994 to help restore the legitimate government and create a secure and stable environment in Haiti. At its peak, the MNF included roughly 21,000 troops, mostly Americans, and more than 1,000 international police monitors. Within 6 months, the troop level was gradually reduced as the MNF transitioned to a 6,000-strong peacekeeping force, the UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH). UNMIH was charged with maintaining the secure environment which the MNF had helped establish as well as nurturing Haiti's new police force through the presence of 900 police advisers. A total of 38 countries participated in UNMIH.
To spur Haiti's social and economic recovery from decades of misrule before that, international donors pledged in 1994 to provide more than $2 billion over five years in total assistance. Most bilateral assistance is now channeled through non-governmental organizations. Major bilateral donors are led by the United States, with the largest program, and include Canada, the EU, France, Germany, Japan, and Taiwan. Cuba provides highly visible, low-cost medical and technical experts. Multilateral aid is provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the UN and its agencies. All aid is coordinated informally by the World Bank.
In July 2004, $1.085 billion was pledged through 2006 at the World Bank Donors' Conference. Donors included the U.S., Canada, the EU, France, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Greece, Norway, Mexico, and Ireland. The IDB and the World Bank pledged multilateral aid. As of March 2006, $965 million had been disbursed, mainly to address humanitarian needs.
U.S. policy toward Haiti is designed to foster and strengthen democracy; help alleviate poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition; promote respect for human rights; and counter illegal migration and drug trafficking. The U.S. also supports and facilitates bilateral trade and investment along with legal migration and travel. U.S. policy goals are met through direct bilateral action and by working with the international community. The United States has taken a leading role in organizing international involvement with Haiti. The United States works closely with the Organization of American States (OAS), particularly through the Secretary General's "Friends of Haiti" group (originally a UN group that included the U.S., Canada, France, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina which was enlarged in 2001 to add Germany, Spain, Norway, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and The Bahamas), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and individual countries to achieve policy goals.
Maintaining good relations with and fostering democracy in Haiti are important for many reasons, not least of which is the country's geographical proximity to the continental United States. In addition to the many Haitians who receive visas to immigrate into the U.S. (averaging over 13,000 annually in FY 1999-2003), there is a flow of illegal migrants. Over 100,000 undocumented Haitian migrants were intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard in the past two decades, particularly during the 1991-94 period of illegal military rule when more than 67,000 migrants were interdicted. Since the return of the legitimate government in 1994, the interdiction of illegal migrants by U.S. Coast Guard vessels has decreased dramatically, averaging fewer than 1,500 annually. Neighboring Caribbean countries, particularly The Bahamas, continue to interdict Haitian migrants as well. The prospect remains, however, for the renewal of higher flows of illegal migrants, particularly under conditions of political unrest or further economic downturn.
U.S. Economic and Development Assistance
Political insecurity and the failure of Haiti's governments to invest in developing the country's natural and human resources has contributed significantly to the country's current state of underdevelopment. U.S. efforts to strengthen democracy and help build the foundation for economic growth aim to rectify this condition. The U.S. has been Haiti's largest donor since 1973. Between FY 1995 and FY 2003, the U.S. contributed more than $850 million in assistance to Haiti. Since 2004, the U.S. has provided over $600 million for improving governance, security, the rule of law, economic recovery, and critical human needs. The President's budget request for FY 2007 was $198 million. U.S. Government funds have been used to support programs that have addressed a variety of problems.
Haiti has been plagued for decades by extremely high unemployment and underemployment. The precipitous decline in urban assembly sector jobs, from a high of over 100,000 in 1986 to fewer than 20,000 in 2006, exacerbated the scarcity of jobs. To revitalize the economy, U.S. assistance attempts to create opportunities for stable sustainable employment for the growing population, particularly in rural areas. More recently, programs that help to increase commercial bank lending to micro-enterprises, especially in the agricultural sector, have helped to create a significant number of jobs. U.S. assistance is channeled primarily through private voluntary agencies and contractors to ensure efficient implementation of U.S. assistance programs.
Combating Drug Trafficking
Haiti is a major transshipment point for South American narcotics, primarily cocaine, being sent to the United States. To counter this threat, the U.S. has taken a number of steps, including vetting and training the counternarcotics division of the Haitian National Police, providing material assistance and training to the Haitian Coast Guard for drug and migrant interdiction, and obtaining the expulsion of several traffickers under indictment in the United States.
U.S. Business Opportunities
The U.S. remains Haiti's largest trading partner. Port-au-Prince is less than 2 hours by air from Miami, with several daily direct flights. A daily flight also connects Port-au-Prince with New York, and a new Port-au-Prince-Fort Lauderdale flight started in 2007. Both Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien on the north coast have deepwater port facilities. Many Haitian entrepreneurs conduct business in English, and U.S. currency circulates freely in Haiti. A number of U.S. firms, including commercial banks, telecommunications, airlines, oil and agribusiness companies, and U.S.-owned assembly plants are present in Haiti.
Further opportunities for U.S. businesses include the development and trade of raw and processed agricultural products; medical supplies and equipment; rebuilding and modernizing Haiti's depleted infrastructure; developing tourism and allied sectors--including arts and crafts; and improving capacity in waste disposal, transportation, energy, telecommunications, and export assembly operations. Haiti's primary assembly sector inputs include textiles, electronics components, and packaging materials. Other U.S. export prospects include electronic machinery, including power-generation, sound and television equipment, plastics and paper, construction materials, plumbing fixtures, hardware, and lumber. Benefits for both Haitian and American importers and exporters are available under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA)--which provides for duty-free export of many Haitian products assembled from U.S. components or materials--the successor program to the Caribbean Basin Initiative, and the HOPE Act, which provides additional duty-free preferences for qualifying apparel/textiles products and automotive wire harnesses.
U.S. export opportunities also exist for four-wheel-drive vehicles, consumer electronics, rice, wheat, flour, animal and vegetable fats, meat, chicken, vegetables, and processed foodstuffs. The Government of Haiti seeks to reactivate and develop agricultural industries where Haiti enjoys comparative advantages, among which are essential oils, spices, fruits and vegetables, and sisal. The government encourages the inflow of new capital and technological innovations. Additional information on business opportunities in Haiti can be found at the Country Commercial Guide for Haiti.
Establishing a Business
Individuals wishing to practice a trade in Haiti must obtain an immigrant visa from a Haitian Consulate and, in most cases, a government work permit. Transient and resident traders must also have a professional ID card.
Property restrictions still exist for foreign individuals. Property rights of foreigners are limited to 1.29 hectares in urban areas and 6.45 hectares in rural areas. No foreigner may own more than one residence in the same district, or own property or buildings near the border. To own real estate, authorization from the Ministry of Justice is necessary.
Hurdles for businesses in Haiti include poor infrastructure, a high-cost port, an irregular supply of electricity, and Customs delays. There is little direct investment.
In November 2002, the Haitian Parliament passed an investment law prohibiting fiscal and legal discrimination against foreign investors. The 2002 law explicitly recognizes the crucial role of foreign direct investment in spurring economic growth and aims to facilitate, liberalize, and stimulate private investment in Haiti. Foreign investment protection is also provided by the Haitian Constitution of 1987, which permits expropriation of private property for public use or land reform with payment in advance. American firms enjoy free transfer of interest, dividends, profits, and other revenues stemming from their investments, and are guaranteed just compensation paid in advance of expropriation, as well as compensation in case of damages or losses caused by war, revolution, or insurrection. The U.S. and Haiti have a bilateral agreement on investment guarantees that permits the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation to offer programs in Haiti. The two governments also signed a bilateral investment treaty in December 1983, but it was not ratified.
Additional information on establishing a business in Haiti can be found at www.export.gov, then to market research, then Country Commercial Guides.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Kenneth H. Merten
Deputy Chief of Mission--Thomas C. Tighe
Consul General--Donald Moore
Public Affairs Officer--James Ellickson-Brown
USAID Director--Paul Tuebner
The U.S. Embassy in Haiti's contact information can be found on its website at haiti.usembassy.gov.
Additional Contact Information
U.S. Commercial Service does not have a separate office in Haiti. Commercial matters are handled by the Embassy economic section.
Tel: (509) 223-1477
Fax: (509) 223-9038
Cell: (509) 409-1441
Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)
1615 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20527
Tel: (202) 457-7200
Fax: (202) 331-4234
U.S. Department of Commerce
14th and Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20230
Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
Tel: (202) 482-0704
Fax: (202) 482-0464
Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 466-7464
Fax: (202) 822-0075
Association des Industries d'Haiti (ADIH)
Bldg. Le Triangle Delmas 31, #139
Tel: (509) 246-4509/4510 or 2211
Centre Pour la Libre Entreprise et la Democratie (CLED)
37, Avenue Marie-Jeanne,
No. 8 B.P. 1316
Tel: (509) 244-0901 or (509) 245-6039
Fax: (509) 222-8252
Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie d'Haiti
P.O. Box 982
Tel: (509) 222-0281 or (509) 222-2475
Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AMCHAM)
Rue Oge, A-5
Republic of Haiti
Tel: (509) 511-3024, fax not available