Is Free Trade a Good Thing for Haiti? Deforested lands, farmers forced out to make "Free Trade" zones, no self-sufficiency, no sustainable agriculture, dependence on imports and a population growth that is estimated at 110% higher than world average and 174% higher than the United States.
Drastic food inflation causes riots
Amid riots and death's, UN forces, led by Brazilian peacekeeping forces and humanitarian food aid, Haiti has overthrow it's leader, in a country where most of it's workers make less than $2 a day. It's a simple fact, with worldwide food inflation, the people in Haiti cannot afford to eat.
When you wonder why we as labor should care, take note that many former US employers in the textile industry have opened up shop in this land, and many in Haiti itself, shut their doors when human rights organizations persisted in campaigns for these workers. These companies who contracted clothing for the likes of Nike and Disney, shut their Haitian factories and headed to countries with even lower regard for labor and human rights, such as China.
Read on and get an idea of the wonderful world of "Free Trade" and "Global" economy
Haiti Tosses Out It's Leader After Promise of Sustainable Agriculture on Barren Land
From Reuters (4/12/08):
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haiti's government fell on Saturday when senators fired the prime minister after more than a week of riots over food prices, ignoring a plan presented by the president to slash the cost of rice.The Corporate Hands In Haiti
The clash with senators came after the president of the country of 9 million people -- most of whom earn less than $2 a day -- managed to persuade rioters to end a week of violence in which at least five people were killed.
Stone-throwing crowds began battling U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police in the south on April 2, enraged at the soaring cost of rice, beans, cooking oil and other staples.
The unrest spread this week to the capital, Port-au-Prince, bringing the sprawling and chaotic city to a halt as mobs took over the streets, smashing windows, looting shops, setting fire to cars and hurling rocks at motorists.
While in the late 90's Disney and Nike clothing contractor H.H. Cutler (a division of VF Corporation, one of the world's largest apparel companies), moved from Haiti to places in the world with even less human rights and lower pay, in the years since American companies such as Levi's have closed the doors here in the states and opened shop in the country. Workers in the country earn an average of less than $2 a day. A Cintas subcontractor, Haitian American Apparel Co. S.A. (or as workers call it, HAACOSA), has been alleged to have "Severe violation of Haitian Labor Codes and International Labor Standards", from the last link below:
"They lock the gates on us and sometimes put security guards out in front with rifles to prevent us from leaving, said Jacqueline, as she described the method her employer uses to force workers to work over 10 hours a day without compensation. The supervisors would yell and curse at us to finish our quota. My daily quota is sewing 90 dozen zippers on pants for 80 gourds (~$2 USD)."Life In Our Free Trade Neighbor
The factory gets so hot it is like working in fire. Inside the air is so hot and full of dust that I can’t breathe, so I would put my handkerchief around my nose and continue working,she said.HAACOSA doe not have any purified water for us to drink. Instead, there is a tub of water that, I think, is rainwater or something because it is smelly and dirty. I think supervisors pee in the water because it smells so bad.When asked if she drinks the water, she responded,I have to, I don’t have money to buy water.
From The Associated Press (4/12/08) :
More People and No Sustainable Agriculture
Globally, food prices have risen 40 percent since mid-2007. Haiti, where most people live on less than $2 a day, is particularly affected because it imports nearly all of its food, including more than 80 percent of its rice.
Much of Haiti's once-productive farmland has been abandoned as farmers struggle to grow crops in soil decimated by erosion, deforestation, flooding and tropical storms. To make a profit, the farms that remain often price their crops sharply higher than imported American products, which benefit from generous U.S. government subsidies.
Some aid was on its way Friday. Brazil, which has about 1,200 peacekeepers serving in Haiti, sent an air force plane with 14 tons of food, including beans, sugar and cooking oil. France pledged food and other aid worth $1.6 million. The U.N. World Food Program, which had collected only 15 percent of its Haiti budget before the riots, appealed for donations to meet its $96 million goal.
But the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday that high food prices in the developing world are unlikely to subside anytime soon as price speculation and market failures counteract increases in food production.
This spells disaster in a nation where the World Bank says per capita income is just $480 a year.
Francois, gaunt and balding at 32, doesn't even have that much. Hired as a "transportation inspector" last year by the mayor of the nearby Cite Soleil slum, he has no salary — just an identification card that can be used in the slums to exact bribes or collect fees. His 25-year-old girlfriend also does not work. With no education or skills, their job prospects aren't good in a place where most eligible adults are unemployed.
Mostly, Francois depends on handouts from neighbors and friends. He begs in the street. If all else fails, he hunts for scraps in the garbage piles at the nearby La Saline market, in view of towering stacks of U.S.-produced rice he cannot afford.
Francois and Joseph weren't impressed by the much-anticipated national address of President Rene Preval on Wednesday, delivered as gunshots rang through the capital and protesters yelled for his resignation.
The U.S.-backed leader blamed soaring food costs on Haiti's dependence on foreign imports and a badly damaged infrastructure that makes shipping difficult. A trained agronomist, Preval also pledged to build up Haitian agriculture and make the country more self-sufficient, offering government loans to help farmers afford fertilizer.
His message was lost on this couple. Like thousands of urban poor in the capital, they fled the hopelessness of the countryside in their youth. At age 10, Francois was given away by his rural parents to a family in Port-au-Prince, who forced him to work as a servant until he turned 18.
For them, promises to grow more food in the increasingly barren countryside are meaningless.
"By the time rice grows here, we'll all be dead," Francois said. "Preval is a country man. He should go plant rice."
In Haitian slang, Francois and Joseph describe their hunger pangs as "eating Clorox" because of the burning sensation in their guts. Flashing a sheepish smile, Joseph said they sometimes resort to a traditional hunger palliative — cookies made of dirt, salt and butter.
One of the biggest problem in Haiti is that most of it's food is imported, most of it's own farmers have, been run off their land for "Free Trade" areas or have abandoned their farms due to much cheaper US Subsidized Agriculture, another major player is the population growth figures, Haiti has had an increase of 2.45% in 2007, thats more than twice as high as the world average, and almost triple that of the United States. Obviously unaffordable food and more people is a deadly mix.
Heres the stats on Haiti,
The following diagram shows the levels of exports and imports of the country over the years.
The country became a member of the World Bank in the year 1953. The country is also a member of the trade organizations like WTO and CARICOM.
Population growth rate: 1.167% (2007 est.) Birth rate: 20.09 births/1,000 population (2007 est.) Death rate: 8.37 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.894% (2007 est.) Birth rate: 14.16 births/1,000 population (2007 est.) Death rate: 8.26 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.453% (2007 est.) Birth rate: 35.87 births/1,000 population (2007 est.) Death rate: 10.4 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
- In Conclusion
- My quick conclusion, not being the expert on Foreign affairs and this travesty in Haiti, more education and less population growth would be a good start. Any true trade pact should have this type of thing involved in it, we simply cannot just rape a country dry without helping the people create their own sustainable environment, so, is Free Trade a good thing? When people come somewhere closer to the top, with actual human rights, with regulated monitoring. With Corporate investment into the communities they invade. Will that happen? I really don't know, in this world where you need consumers, it seems that the corps are killing their own businesses. Constantly fretting on this quarters bottom line and not foreseeing past that, the entire corporate structure is flawed in it's methods. When there were businessmen who wanted to achieve their dreams of highly sought after products, and the leading products in their respective fields amidst competition, they looked past a 3 month span. They invested in the future of their companies. In todays world we have a few CEO and board members who look to get the highest bonus and pay in very small sections of time. It's a losing proposition. Especially when no one can afford their products. Biofeul's using the food supply is a huge contributer to the food demand, but then again theres another story for another day...
- Also read Part 1: "Free Trade's working victims, Bangladesh's workers cannot afford rice, John McCain on free trade"
- More links of Corporations in Haiti From Hartford Web Publishing
- Disney/Nike Contractor Leaves Haiti for China
- Campaign for Labor Rights, Action Alert, 8 August 1998. H.H. Cutler is planning to pull production out of Haiti to relocate to China. More than 2,000 badly needed jobs in Haiti could be lost. H.H. Cutler (a division of VF Corporation, one of the world's largest apparel companies) has sewn clothing in Haiti for the last several years under contract with the Walt Disney Company and Nike.
- Disney/Haiti workers threatened
- Labor Alerts, 26 October 1998. Concerning the Megatex factory in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which produces clothing for the Disney company. The worker organization, Batay Ouvriye, reports that a factory supervicor threatened two union members at Megatex with firing and violence.
- No work at Megatex; no answer from Disney
- Campaign for Labor Rights,
Labor Alerts,16 May 1999. Megatex, a factory in Port-au-Prince which manufacturers clothing for Disney and other brands and which has been the focus of several previous labor alerts. The entire export production sector is spiraling down. Foreign capital is deserting the country. The company remains silent.
- Haiti private sector decries ‘climate of terror’
- By Michael Deibert, Reuters, 24 November 2002. In another blow to embattled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's largest private sector association blamed
climate of terror.The business group calls for the arrests of some government supporters. for allowing a
- Betting on its brand name, Hilton sees a future in Haiti: Poor economy, protests fail to dim chain's vision
- By Marika Lynch, The Miami Herald, Friday 20 December 2002. The walls are to be 15 feet tall in the planned Hilton D'Haiti in Port-au-Prince. The 196-unit, $52.5 million complex is shooting for a 2005 opening. The Hilton D'Haiti hopes to attract business people seeking to slip into the country and avoid the trek—and the safety risks—of heading downtown.
- Farmers forced out as global brands build Haiti free-trade area
- By Jacqui Goddard, Ouanaminthe, Haiti, The Sunday Times, 6 July 2003. The Maribahoux Plain is one of Haiti's most fertile agricultural regions. Located on Haiti's border with the Dominican Republic, it has a production capacity enough to feed half a million people. But under a scheme funded by the World Bank, 54 peasant farmers have been evicted to free up land for an industrial Free Trade Zone (FTZ).
- Levi Strauss moving to Haiti; N. American plants closing in March
- By Don Thomas, The Edmonton Journal, Saturday 4 October 2003. Levi Strauss closing its North American plants and ramping up production in Third World countries, including Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. With help from the World Bank, Grupo M, the Dominican Republic's largest employer, has opened a plant in a free trade zone in nearby Haiti.
- Labor Abuses At CINTAS Producing Factory in Haiti
- UNITE,  October 2003. The working conditions of the women garment workers at a Cintas subcontractor, Haitian American Apparel Co. S.A. (or as workers call it, HAACOSA). Severe violation of Haitian Labor Codes and International Labor Standards, as well as Cintas' own Code of Conduct.