Cuba Authorizes a US Company to Open Assembly Plant

cuba-cleber-tractors-685x342HAVANA TIMES — Cuban authorities authorized for the first time a US company to set up shop in the Special Development Zone of Mariel, located about 40 kilometers west of Havana.

Nonetheless, for Cleber tractor company to begin to operate a tractor factory in Cuba, it still must receive approval by the United States, company representative Saul Berenthal told dpa news.

Only then could the Alabama Company that wants to manufacture and assemble tractors on the island, proceed with the necessary paper work. “We are waiting,” said Berenthal about the process that is now in the hands of the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Due to restrictions of the more than half-century economic embargo against Cuba, US companies cannot formally trade with Cuba, except if they have a special permit.

Under the rapprochement between the two countries announced in December 2014, the government of Barack Obama authorizes trade with Cuba in some sectors such as agriculture and telecommunications, among others.

Cleber decided to submit the project to open an assembly plant in Mariel after Obama’s announced his new policy to open “trade ties” between the two countries, said Berenthal.

The Cuban government created two years ago a free trade zone in Mariel to try to attract foreign investment by offering tax prerogatives among other things. Eight foreign companies, including companies from Mexico, Brazil and Spain, have been installed in Mariel.

Cleber hopes to obtain authorization soon to conclude theprocess initiated in June this year, said Berenthal. The idea of the company is “designing a tractor for small Cuban farmers,” said the Cuban-born American businessman.

The company also expects to export the tractor, suitable also for small agricultural producers in other Latin American countries, he added.

“Cuba has a number of trade agreements with Latin America,” he said. “It would be cheaper to export tractors made in Cuba from the island than from the United States.”

The governments of Washington and Havana resumed diplomatic relations in mid-July after 54 years. As part of the rupture in the early 60s, the government of Fidel Castro expropriated US corporations on the island.

In retaliation, Washington imposed severe economic and commercial still in force today, which can only be lifted by the US Congress. Obama has asked the Senate and House of Representatives to fully lift the sanctions to further the bilateral rapprochement and has made some of them more flexible in their application.