Havana and Washington Open Long-Term Economic Dialogue
HAVANA TIMES – The United States and Cuba took an important step along the road towards the normalization of relations between the countries with the inauguration of the Bilateral Economic Dialogue in Washington D.C., a forum for discussing topics of mutual interest with an eye towards the future.
The opening meeting of the Economic Dialogue, established under the auspices of the Cuba – U.S. Bilateral Commission, addressed economic and financial issues, including those that might arise at a later time when the embargo is lifted, according to a statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry (MINREX).
“The Economic Dialogue’s goal is to discuss long-term bilateral engagement on a wide range of topics as part of the ongoing normalization process between our two countries,” stated a press release from the U.S. State Department.
The media note from the United States was more specific about the topics discussed, and mentioned “ trade and investment, labor and employment, renewable energy and energy efficiency, small business, intellectual property rights, economic policy, regulatory and banking matters, and telecommunications and internet access” as among the items on the meeting agenda.
This is the greatest bilateral effort thus far to create a lasting mechanism for discussion of strategic issues between the two countries, beyond the end of Barack Obama’s presidential term.
The Bilateral Dialogue comes at a time when only 129 days remain before a change in the White House. The advisors for the National Security Council and the State Department are trying to consolidate the advances in relations with Cuba as part of President Obama’s legacy.
Diverse working groups were created to follow up on specific topics of interest to both sides. These will meet periodically in alternating venues to sustain technical discussions during the upcoming months.
Meanwhile the Cuban Foreign Ministry statement mentions the Cuban delegation’s repeated insistence that “lifting the blockade is essential in order to advance in economic, trade and financial relations towards the normalization of bilateral ties, because it affects the development of our economy and brings harm and privations to the Cuban people.”
The meeting was inaugurated by Charles Rivkin, Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs. The U.S. delegation included John Creamer, U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs; Ziad Haider, Special representative for Commercial and Business Affairs; and Mateo Borman, U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Industry and Security.
The Cuban side was represented by Ileana Nuñez Mordoche, Vice Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, and officials of her Ministry and that of Foreign Relations as well as from the Central Bank of Cuba.
Third high-level gathering
This was the third high-level gathering on issues of common interest in less than a week, after sustaining conversations over the weekend on topics of intellectual property and banking operations.
The initial exchange on intellectual property took place in Havana on September 8-9. Opinions were exchanged about existing regulations in each respective country and the legal framework of the two states for protecting trademarks, patents and copyrights, according to a press note from the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
Cuba stated its “concern that the United States recognize the rights of Cuban companies and entities,” including the commercial trademarks “Havana Club” and “Cohiba”. The Cuban communiqué added that reciprocal protection for trademarks and patents will be “an essential part of the improvement of our bilateral relations.”
Daniel Marti, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for the Oval Office, traveled to Havana for this meeting, accompanied by functionaries of the State Department, the U.S. Copyright Office, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Banking discussions in New York
While the talks on intellectual property were going on in Havana, in New York a technical-informational workshop was being held on financial topics, organized by the United States Chamber of Commerce and the U.S.- Cuba Business Council, with the presence of representatives from United States and Cuban banks, plus banks from other countries.
The encounter was the continuation of a similar workshop held in Havana last July.
The participants discussed the composition of both countries’ banking systems, and the barriers faced by financial institutions in the process of establishing bilateral relations.
Representatives from US banks and those from other countries continue to complain of the difficulties they still encounter in carrying out financial transactions with Cuba, despite the norms decreed by President Obama for adjusting banking operations.
During the workshop, executives from General Electric, Credit Suisse, AG group, Western Union and Visa had questions to ask of the U.S. and Cuban authorities.