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Clinton, Bush survey state of Haiti

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Bill Clinton in Haiti
  • Clinton said Congress should extend trade preferences for Haiti
  • Bush wanted to remind people "there is still suffering and work to be done here"
  • Haitians happy to see presidents, but shouted "down with Préval"

Port-au-Prince, Haiti -- Extending U.S. trade preferences for Haiti could create as many as 100,000 jobs that would boost the earthquake-ravaged country's recovery, former President Bill Clinton said during a visit to the Haitian capital Monday.

Clinton and former President George W. Bush visited Haiti on behalf of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, which was established to raise money for long-term recovery in the impoverished nation.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Clinton said that to help Haiti beyond the short term, the U.S. Congress should extend trade preferences that would allow Haiti to increase the amount of textiles Haiti can export into the United States.

"Because if we do, and we say we're going to do it for a longer period of time, we can get massive investment here (and) create tens of thousands or perhaps even 100,000 jobs," Clinton said.

Korean businesses have already expressed an interest in investing in additional textile manufacturing facilities in Haiti if such an extension is passed, Clinton said.

Brazil's foreign minister recently told Clinton that his country would follow in investing as well.

On Monday, Clinton and Bush met with Haitian leaders, visited a camp for displaced Haitians and toured two small businesses in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The U.S. presidents spoke with Haitian President René Préval at a news conference Monday.

"My mission is to work with President Clinton to remind the American people there is still suffering and work to be done here," Bush said.

Clinton also said he supported the development of Haiti's domestic agriculture industry as a key to development and recovery. During the periods of the Clinton and Bush presidencies, the conventional wisdom was that by opening up countries like Haiti to subsidized agricultural imports from the United States and other developed nations, Haiti could industrialize faster. Both president's policies followed this logic, which Clinton now said was ultimately harmful and abandoned in recent years.

Haitians were enthusiastic about seeing the American presidents, but shouted "down with Préval," referring to their own leader.

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed at least 220,000 people on January 12 and demolished large parts of Port-au-Prince. About 300,000 people were injured and 1 million were left homeless, government officials said.

The two former leaders started the joint effort at the request of President Barack Obama. It aims to raise funds for relief and rebuilding work, economic opportunities and improving the quality of life for Haitians affected by the quake. Various celebrities have donated to the fund, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio who gave $1 million. The organization raised more than $37 million in the weeks after the disaster, according to its Web site.

CNN's Lonzo Cook contributed to this report.