From aviation to trade, a busy week ahead for U.S.-Cuba relations
A civil aviation agreement between the two countries will be signed
Cuba’s minister of foreign trade and investment is visiting Washington
Second round of U.S.-Cuba regulatory talks will be held
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
This will be a big week in the evolving U.S.-Cuba relationship with the
signing of a new civil aviation agreement, a Cuban foreign trade
minister visiting Washington and another round of U.S.-Cuba talks.
It begins with the signing of an agreement in Havana that will allow
regularly scheduled airline service between Cuba and the United States
for the first time in more than five decades.
The milestone agreement takes effect upon signing Tuesday morning at
Havana’s historic Hotel Nacional. That means U.S. airlines can begin
submitting applications for routes serving Havana and nine other Cuban
cities with international airports from any U.S. city. The pact allows
for up to 20 flights from the United States to Havana daily and up to 10
each for the nine other cities.
After the Department of Transportation receives applications, it will
decide flight frequencies and which airlines will get which routes based
on market considerations. The Havana route is expected to attract the
Since President Barack Obama announced in December 2014 that the United
States and Cuba had begun the process of normalizing relations, “U.S.
carriers have been very intrigued and interested about this potential
opportunity,” said Brandon Belford, deputy assistant for aviation and
international affairs at the Department of Transportation.
Decisions may be made on less competitive routes sooner, but U.S.
officials said the process should be completed by this summer with
commercial aviation service between the two countries beginning by fall.
Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Charles Rivkin, assistant
secretary of state for economic and business affairs, headed the U.S.
delegation to Cuba. Cuba’s delegation is led by Transportation Minister
Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez and Alfredo Cordero, president of Cuba’s
Institute of Civil Aviation.
While Foxx is in Havana, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign
Investment Rodrigo Malmierca will be in Washington. He arrived Sunday
and is leading the largest delegation of Cuban officials to the nation’s
capital in decades. It includes officials from the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, Cuba’s Central Bank, the trade ministry, the Chamber of
Commerce and executives from Cuban companies.
On Tuesday, Malmierca will speak at the U.S.-Cuba Business Council and
then lead the second round of regulatory talks between the United States
and Cuba, which is scheduled Wednesday and Thursday. Malmierca also
plans an official visit with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who recently
led a business mission from his state to Cuba.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who visited Cuba last year, and
Malmierca will open the second round of the U.S.-Cuba Regulatory
Dialogue. During the two days of talks, the U.S. delegation will go over
the latest set of U.S. regulatory changes announced in January and the
challenges facing U.S. companies who want to do business in Cuba. Among
the highlights of the changes were allowing financing of exports of
goods and services authorized for Cuba.
The Cuban delegation is expected to discuss its economic system and
rules for financial transactions and importing goods and services.
“Our second U.S.-Cuba Regulatory Dialogue is another opportunity to work
directly with our Cuban counterparts to better understand the way our
two governments and economies can work together in support of the Cuban
people,” said Pritzker.
American business people and policy makers will have a chance to mingle
with Malmierca and the Cuban trade delegation Tuesday at a meeting of
the U.S.-Cuba Business Council in Washington. The Council, which was
created last year, is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and
advocates for reforms both in the United States and Cuba to enhance the
economic relationship between the two countries.
“Minister Malmierca’s upcoming visit, together with the U.S. regulatory
changes announced a few weeks ago, create unparalleled opportunities for
the United States and Cuba, particularly in the areas of travel and
small business growth,” said former U.S. Commerce Secretary Gutierrez,
who earlier this month was elected chairman of the Council.
Malmierca and Gutierrez, who served as commerce secretary from 2005 to
2009 in the George W. Bush administration, will hold a news conference
at the conclusion of the Council event.
The week’s U.S.-Cuba events, plus Cuba’s recent return of a U.S.
Hellfire missile that it said was mistakenly shipped to Havana from
Paris in 2014, give impetus to the possibility that Obama may visit Cuba
during the first quarter of the year. The president has said he would
like to visit Cuba before the end of his term. In December, he said such
a visit was conditioned on more progress in his priorities for Cuba such
as a bigger role for private enterprise, improvement in Cuba’s human
rights record and more access to information and the Internet for Cubans.
The Cuban trade delegation’s “visit along with the restoration of the
first U.S. commercial flights to Cuban in more than 50 years are
important steps forwards in our policy of engagement and show what can
be accomplished when there is meaningful, constructive dialogue between
our two countries instead of the decades of isolationist policies that
preceded it,” said James Williams, President of Engage Cuba, a public
policy group that supports normalization.
Source: From aviation to trade, a busy week ahead for U.S.-Cuba
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