U.S., Cuba sign civil aviation accord in Havana as Cuba’s foreign trade
minister visits Washington
Accord allows first regularly scheduled U.S.-Cuba flights in more than
U.S. airlines have until March 2 to submit applications for routes
Cuba’s Foreign Trade minister speaks at U.S. Chamber
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
Cuba and the United States signed an agreement that will pave the way
for regularly scheduled flights between the two countries in Havana
Tuesday, the same day Cuba’s foreign trade minister was in Washington
speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Cuba’s Ambassador to the United States José Cabañas said not only was
the Cuban business delegation accompanying Rodrigo Malmierca, minister
of foreign trade and foreign investment, the largest he could recall,
but Tuesday also was probably the first time ever that a Cuban minister
was in Washington at the same time a U.S. secretary was in Havana.
Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Charles Rivkin, assistant
secretary of state for economic and business affairs, signed a civil
aviation agreement Tuesday morning at the Hotel Nacional in Havana that
will allow the first scheduled airline service between the two countries
in more than 50 years.
Transportation Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez and Alfredo Cordero,
president of Cuba’s Institute of Civil Aviation, signed for Cuba.
“We are here today because our leaders, President Obama and President
Castro, made the courageous decision to stop being the prisoners of
history and to focus on the opportunities of today and tomorrow,” said
Rivkin. “With this new aviation arrangement, we do just that — focus on
opportunities, focus on the future.”
The agreement set the clock ticking for U.S. airlines to apply for route
authorities and flight frequencies to the island. The pact allows up to
20 daily flights to Havana and up 10 flights daily to nine other Cuban
destinations with international airlines.
Although U.S. airlines have been formulating plans since December when
U.S. and Cuban negotiators reached an agreement on a memorandum of
understanding, they now have 15 days to submit their applications to the
U.S. Department of Transportation. The arrangement covers both passenger
and cargo airlines.
DOT said it will “consider which proposals will offer and maintain the
best service to the traveling and shipping public.”
Although the agreement is reciprocal and theoretically Cuba’s national
airline could choose to fly to the United States, U.S. officials said
they don’t anticipate Cuban-owned aircraft coming to the United States
in the near future. To satisfy huge civil judgments that U.S. plaintiffs
won against Cuba by default, Cuban aircraft landing in the United States
could be subject to seizure.
U.S. officials said they hope to make decisions on routes and
frequencies and who gets what by summer with the first regularly
scheduled flights taking off in the fall. Currently about 10 to 15
charter flights handle U.S. passenger traffic from the United States to
Cuba. Under the new arrangement, charters will co-exist with the new
regularly scheduled flights.
U.S. law still prohibits Americans from going to Cuba for tourism, but
travelers who fall into 12 categories, such as those traveling for arts
and sports competitions or educational purposes, are authorized to visit
the island without seeking prior approval from the United States.
“American Airlines commends the U.S. government for its commitment to
re-establishing cultural and economic ties between the U.S. and Cuba,
and for laying the groundwork to restore scheduled air service between
the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years,” said
American’s Chairman and CEO Doug Parker. He said American, which already
leases more of its planes for Cuba charter service than any other U.S.
airline, would be submitting its Cuba service proposal soon.
Other airlines that have expressed interest in serving Cuba are JetBlue,
Sprint, Southwest, United and Delta.
“We look forward to providing access to the island from the U.S. and
around the world; this market will increase the strength of our network
in the Caribbean,” said Nicolas Ferri, Delta’s vice president, Latin
America and the Caribbean.
Malmierca spoke at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’ U.S.-Cuba Business
Council with a delegation that included officials from the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, Cuba’s Central Bank, the trade ministry, the Chamber of
Commerce and executives from Cuban companies in tow. He said the main
obstacle in trying to achieve a better business relationship with the
United States was still the “blockade,” the Cuban term for the embargo.
Although Malmierca called the changes that President Barack Obama has
made to increase travel and trade with Cuba using executive authority
“positive,” he said: “The president has the prerogative to expand these
measures and make them more comprehensive.”
And perhaps in recognition that the end of Obama’s term is approaching
and the political direction of the United States is uncertain, he said
that during U.S.-Cuba regulatory talks scheduled for Wednesday and
Thursday, “we need to achieve ways to make concrete business happen. We
need to show things are happening.”
One thing he hinted could happen soon is an OK for a cruise line to
offer an itinerary from the United States to Cuban ports. “We believer
in the near future we could have cruisers from the U.S. in Cuba,” he
said. Malmierca said that Cuba is developing new cruise terminals in
Havana, Santiago and Cienfuegos.
Malmierca and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who visited
Cuba last year, will kick off the regulatory dialogue Wednesday. During
the two days of talks, the U.S. delegation will review the latest set of
U.S. regulatory changes announced in January and the challenges facing
U.S. companies that want to do business in Cuba. The Cuban delegation is
expected to discuss its economic system and rules for financial
transactions and importing goods and services.
Source: U.S., Cuba sign civil aviation accord in Havana as Cuba’s
foreign trade minister visits Washington | Miami Herald –