Obama, Haitian President to Meet at White House

President Barack Obama and Haitian President Rene Preval meet at the White House on Wednesday to discuss U.S. and international support for earthquake recovery and reconstruction in Haiti.  The meeting comes amid steps in the U.S. Congress to assist Haiti's apparel sector as part of overall efforts to help Haiti's economy.

Haiti is struggling with the economic, social and political impacts of the January 12 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and left tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure damage.

President Preval's White House talks follow his meeting on Tuesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in which Preval, said international aid must focus on the short and long term needs of his country.

"With must work together to ensure the conditions that will allow the recovery of Haiti and all of these conditions have to be worked upon not just the immediate short-term needs but we must also work toward the long term," said President Preval.

President Preval may also meet with U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill who will be instrumental in coming months in maintaining and increasing U.S. financial support for Haiti.

A U.S. Senate resolution approved earlier this month called for continuing U.S. and international support for the Haitian government's leadership in recovery efforts, including a needs assessment and national recovery and development strategy, and urged international financial institutions to help relieve Haiti's debt burdens.  

President Preval's meeting with President Obama also comes as key U.S. lawmakers urge an expansion of U.S. trade benefits to help Haiti rebuild its clothing sector.

In a hearing on Tuesday focusing on reforming U.S. trade preference programs, Democratic Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus voiced his support for this.

"One of our preference program beneficiary countries, Haiti, witnessed unprecedented devastation earlier this year," said Senator Baucus. "We must lend a hand. We must assist Haiti's earthquake-recovery efforts by creating additional incentives for investment in Haiti's apparel sector."

Senator Baucus is working with the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on steps that could result in expanding Haiti's existing duty-free access to the U.S. market.   

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