In continuing its bid to rebuild new relationship with Cuba, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment Rodrigo Malmierca met recently along with their respective representatives to discuss changes to regulations, governing trade, financial transactions, and travel applicable to Cuba.
The regulatory dialogue was aimed at not only facilitating a more effective implementation of new U.S. policies toward Cuba but also for U.S. officials to hear from its Cuban counterparts on the structure and status of the Cuban economy.
The United States Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker, made it clear to Cuban officials that the Obama administration wants to create as many business opportunities as possible in their nation for American companies despite the long embargo and more than five decades of Cold War estrangement.
“This shift in policy is rooted in a fundamental desire to improve the lives of people in both of our nations. We want to help all Cubans plug into the global economy and enjoy a higher standard of living, while also giving the people of the United States an opportunity to learn about Cuba and develop relationships with the people of an island that is only 90 miles away from our shores,” said United States Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker.
She noted that the U.S. has already eliminated certain restrictions on remittances, eased limits on exports and imports – including trade in the telecommunications sector – and made changes to facilitate authorized travel to the island.
“We do not expect that these actions will have a transformational impact on the lives of the Cuban people overnight. And the extent of their impact will be dependent on the Cuban government also taking certain steps to update its regulatory system and reform the economy in ways that support the continued development of a Cuban private sector,” she stated.
She also urged President Castro to allow for easier access by Cuban citizens to the Internet, trade, and travel as well as allow for employment with foreign companies.
“If, over time, we continue taking the necessary steps, we can build a more open relationship between our nations, and the Cuban people can achieve greater prosperity,” she posited.
Furthermore, she noted that the U.S. Commerce and Treasury Departments have revised a series of regulations that govern the activities of U.S. persons and U.S. businesses with respect to Cuba.
- Travel by U.S. Trade delegation to Cuba without federal permission or approval.
- The export of equipment to private agricultural cooperatives by U.S. companies without prior federal approval.
- New telecommunications-related authorizations to increase the connectivity and productivity of the Cuban people.
- Travel-related changes that will enable more Americans to visit the island.
- Review of safety of civil aviation applications on a case-by-case basis.
- The revision of licensing policies to facilitate greater exports.
- The establishment of regular commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba.
Ms. Pritzker, however, declared that only the U.S. Congress can overturn the U.S. embargo and indicated that this limits what the President can do in effecting other changes.
“Let me be clear: our Administration strongly supports lifting the embargo, and we hope Congress takes action to repeal it in the near future. In the meantime, we continue to support greater economic opportunity for the Cuban people. Today’s dialogue provides us with a desired opportunity to learn from each other,” she said.
In conclusion, she argued for a better understanding of how the Cuban economy works in order to ensure better partnership between U.S. and Cuban companies as well as allowing for capitalizing on the opportunities created by the new regulatory changes.
Davy Desmond, Readers Bureau, Fellow
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