US-Cuba Race Against the Clock

Havana and Washington Open Long-Term Economic Dialogue

By Café Fuerte

Cuban and US delegations during the first session of the bilateral Economic Dialogue in Washington D.C.
Cuban and US delegations during the first session of the bilateral Economic Dialogue in Washington D.C.

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.

Lasting commitments

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.


22 thoughts on “US-Cuba Race Against the Clock

  • September 19, 2016 at 7:41 am
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    I agree with your predictions.

  • September 18, 2016 at 8:37 am
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    There’s an election campaign going on and Florida IS the state the win. I think you’re right that Obama is finished with his Cuban legacy and the policies are just enough to balance the field for the Democrats. My guess is Clinton will win Florida 52% – 46% with spattering of independents. That’s what it’s all about until after the elections.

  • September 16, 2016 at 2:32 pm
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    No hay problema, Griffin. I can already feel the sense of change in the hearts and minds of my Cuban friends and family there in Camagüey. A burning desire and a hope for change that they simply didn’t possess before. It’s an expectation now… but soon that expectation will morph into cynical condemnation if things drag on for too long without noting any tangible differences in the quality of there lives. That’s the angst that’s needed to move the population from steadfast indifference that accomplishes nothing, to vocal provocation.

    My feeling will always remain that in order to really help the Cuban people make that jump, that leap of faith to leave the safety of the shadows, they will need the US to completely eliminate all of their interventionist policies leveled against Cuba that indirectly empowers the Cuban government by default and misdirect, while also weakening the Cuban population’s ability to cohesively focus their combined attention and expectations where they belong. They need no more excuses from either side… no more blame-game… no more reasons to simply remain complacent with the status quo while others continue to decide their future.

    Griffin, I think many of us here want the same things for Cuba. But less is more… the less the US government attempts to intervene, the more the Cuban government will be left helpless to defend itself.

  • September 16, 2016 at 9:44 am
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    Terry,
    Thank you for taking the time to address each of the points I raised. It is often true, that things will get worse for an oppressed people before things can get better. But it’s not always so. Sometimes, things just keep on getting worse, as they have in Cuba ever since Batista seized power in a coup 65 years ago. People thought Fidel would make things better, but it just got worse. That could be what happens in Cuba today.

    Most of the new flood of money from US tourists and investment is going to the Castro regime. This money will strengthen the regime, fund increased resources for the police state. In my pessimistic opinion, the change in US policy will facilitate a transition in Cuba from an authoritarian socialist state to an authoritarian fascist state. Human rights for Cubans will not be respected. Things will just get worse.

  • September 15, 2016 at 10:25 pm
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    I was deliberately poking a bit of fun at Fidel’s now customary uniform of his Adidas track suit. Sorry you didn’t get the joke. You have to admit Terry that despite his despotic history and pursuit of power, Fidel has now become a bit of a joke!.
    As you also probably know, three stripes are the insignia rank of a sergeant, but the Adidas wear as has been pointed out by others, is to assist in hiding his colostomy bag.

  • September 15, 2016 at 6:54 pm
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    But Dan, there are those who admire the denial of human rights and freedom for the people of Cuba. Such people do not seek such conditions for themselves but the imposition of them upon others. They should be ashamed.
    Regarding those who seek such freedom and human rights for Cubans, they will continue to haunt Havana Times as long as there is a ghost of a chance of the Castro communist regime failing and/or dying off. The struggle for freedom can take a long time, but it occurred for those thirteen countries which were under the boot of the communist USSR until it imploded and they were freed.

  • September 15, 2016 at 4:51 pm
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    I had to read your comment twice to confirm what I thought improbable. I AGREE with you. Things are likely to get worse before they get better. As Frederick Douglas said “Power concedes nothing without demand”. Despots like the Castros do not take kindly to demands. I genuinely hope that there will be no major bloodshed as these changes occur. But history leans the other way.

  • September 15, 2016 at 3:01 pm
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    ……and Fidel wears his militaristic Adidas track suit…..

    Sorry, Carlyle, I just had to laugh at that comment… but not at you, btw…really! jajaja I just find your thought processes interesting and entertaining sometimes…because to me, the image of Fidel wearing his blue Adidas track suit has nothing to do with being militaristic. If Fidel’s sweatpants are somehow part of his new militaristic uniform, then it could be argued that the entire world is now full of 3 stripe revolutionaries too. 😉

  • September 15, 2016 at 1:15 pm
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    “Terry wrote, ” There won’t be any real leverage secured until Cuba is first given something that can potentially be taken away later.”

    But isn’t that the same thing you described as interventionist?”

    You’re absolutely correct, Griffin. But in a whisper… shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Not so loud… we don’t want to let the Cuban government know. (rolls eyes)

    Griffin wrote… “You say “baby steps” are necessary, but so far the baby steps the US has taken have resulted in an increase in political repression against dissidents, increased harassment of the self-employed, increased migration out of Cuba, increased control of the Cuban economy by the Cuban military conglomerates. If these are baby steps, they’re moving in the wrong direction.”

    Not at all, Griffin. Your observations only prove that Obama’s tactics are working… and trust me, things are going to get far worse too. The Cuban government will find it next to impossible to sustain their increasing repression to counter an ever increasingly impatient Cuban population…a population much more impatient now because of Obama’s rapprochement with their government. Isn’t that what everyone has always wanted for the Cuban people… a growing opposition in Cuba? Please don’t think that this won’t initially come without a price. But by the same token, there will come a point when the Cuban government will no longer be able to contain it.

    Griffin wrote… “I said that you & Dan don’t support human rights in Cuba because you criticize those who speak out for human rights in Cuba and you endorse a US policy which has resulted in an increase in human rights abuses in Cuba.”

    I don’t know where you get this notion that I don’t support an increase in human rights for the Cuban people…and especially, that I criticize those who are vocal supporters for increased human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps it’s only that I better understand that this issue of increased human rights in Cuba must take a backseat within current negotiations in order to first establish the required mechanisms necessary be able to apply more pressure and support for increased human rights at a later date…after the US has secured more leverage and inherent influence with the Cuban government.

    Griffin wrote… “What would be signs the situation is moving in the right direction? I would think a decrease in human rights abuses, an increase in self-employed Cubans, a reduction in migration, and the right of Cuban citizens to freely engage in business without harassment from the State. You let us know when any of those improvements start, ok?”

    Griffin, you’ve got it all bass-acwards. No. You can expect things to get much worse for the Cuban people before things will get better. Consider the initial fortunes of Muhatma Gandhi’s followers… Martin Luther King’s disciples… Nelson Mandela’s struggles attempting to end Apartheid, etc. etc. etc. Again, it’s to be expected that things will become much worse in Cuba before things will become much better. At the moment, many sympathize with the Cuban government for their struggles in the face of American tyranny…but take away all of those US interventionist policies, and you’ll see world public opinion do a complete 180 degree turn. Fingers will then be pointing directly at none other than the Cuban government alone after it has been stripped naked without anything to hide behind in their vain attempts to explain their own brand of tyranny inflicted against their own people. That’s when I believe you’ll truly see the Cuban people rise up to make their demands heard with much more conviction…and with the pressure of the world on their side too.

  • September 15, 2016 at 12:22 pm
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    An interesting introduction of the theory of militaristic politics Terry. Raul wears the hand-tailored suit and silk tie to promote his new ‘diplomatic’ image and Fidel wears his militaristic Adidas track suit supposedly writing vitriolic letters which are more probably the work of the Propaganda Department of the PCC.
    I agree with you that Raul likes to stroke the egos of the octogenarians like himself and the now nonogenerian Fidel, but flat out rejection of an endeavour to introduce reason is not helpful. It took three full years of negotiations commencing in Canada, for the visit by Obama to occur, Raul has less than a couple of years left now to make any progress. But no change has occurred in the lives of Cubans.

  • September 15, 2016 at 10:41 am
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    Terry wrote, ” There won’t be any real leverage secured until Cuba is first given something that can potentially be taken away later.”

    But isn’t that the same thing you described as interventionist?

    Setting conditions for making a sale or an investment is not interventionist. Each side has the right to take positions in a negotiation.

    You say “baby steps” are necessary, but so far the baby steps the US has taken have resulted in an increase in political repression against dissidents, increased harassment of the self-employed, increased migration out of Cuba, increased control of the Cuban economy by the Cuban military conglomerates. If these are baby steps, they’re moving in the wrong direction. I said that you & Dan don’t support human rights in Cuba because you criticize those who speak out for human rights in Cuba and you endorse a US policy which has resulted in an increase in human rights abuses in Cuba.

    What would be signs the situation is moving in the right direction? I would think a decrease in human rights abuses, an increase in self-employed Cubans, a reduction in migration, and the right of Cuban citizens to freely engage in business without harassment from the State. You let us know when any of those improvements start, ok?

  • September 15, 2016 at 8:06 am
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    Sabre rattling is part of the negotiating process. It helps to publically remind the US that Cuba will not kow-tow to American demands. It also helps Raul console and stroke the egos of his party faithful and old-timers, including his brother. But in private meetings between the two countries, as has been reported, there is no need for such bravado.

  • September 14, 2016 at 11:40 pm
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    The concept of liberty for the people of Cuba from the oppression of the Castro regime really does get up your nose Dan.

  • September 14, 2016 at 11:40 pm
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    When discussing dialogue between the US and Cuba, it is worthwhile remembering the content of Barack Obama’s statements at the press conference following his meeting with Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution on March 21st (when Raul was very uneasy and fiddling with his earpieces) and then in his speech at the Alicia Alonso Teatre on March 22nd.. In both, he spoke of the possibility of easing the embargo but that there had to be reciprocation by Cuba.
    However on March 28th at 7.00 p.m., Mesa Redondo commenced by reading for ten minutes a pretty venomous letter supposedly written by Fidel Castro and entitled: “The Man Obama” which repudiated all that Obama had proposed. Then on March 29th Bruno Rodriguez Carilles gave a speech in which he said bluntly that the lifting of the embargo had to be a unilateral action by the US and that there would be no reciprocation by Cuba.
    Anyone with any knowledge of how the political system operates in Cuba, knows that neither the supposed Fidel letter and Rodriguez’ speech would have been publicized without the approval of Raul Castro.

  • September 14, 2016 at 8:09 pm
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    Freedom is the ultimate human right.

  • September 14, 2016 at 5:39 pm
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    “It’s good to see both Terry D & Dan openly admit they have no interest in supporting human rights for the Cuban people.”

    Show me where I “openly admit” that I have no interest in supporting human rights for the Cuban people. Show me.

    “But you & Dan prefer to have the Castro’s beat up on ladies, jail independent trade unionists and otherwise keep their slaves in line for their new American corporate partners to exploit.”

    Where did I say that? Show me where. Seriously, Griffin…are you on some sort of hallucinogenics? I joke with you about that…but seriously, your crazy speculations about me at best, have absolutely no basis in fact.

    “It’s not intervention, Terry, to tell the Castro’s if they want a better relationship with US, including increased US tourism, then the Cuban government needs to commit to improving their support for the human rights of the Cuban people.”

    Griffin, I believe that specific dialogue is still ongoing with the Cuban government… as it should be. This is where I agree with you. However, continuing that same old tired shtick of attaching demands, as best highlighted by your comment “No rights? No business.”… is indeed interventionist, and defeatist too, because we all know how ineffective retaining that attitude has been at moving the Cuban government in the right direction. It may seem to you and to others that Obama is continuing to sell out to the Castros… and not getting anything in return. But nothing could be further from the truth. Gaining access and securing relationships for conducting joint business ventures and all manners of dependency first, is the thin edge of the wedge. There won’t be any real leverage secured until Cuba is first given something that could potentially be taken away later. I’m sure you follow my drift. Griffin, everything will come… but all in good time. Baby steps now are best. Everybody must remain patient.

  • September 14, 2016 at 2:03 pm
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    It’s good to see both Terry D & Dan openly admit they have no interest in supporting human rights for the Cuban people.

    It’s not intervention, Terry, to tell the Castro’s if they want a better relationship with US, including increased US tourism, then the Cuban government needs to commit to improving their support for the human rights of the Cuban people. No rights? No business.

    I don’t support intervention by the US in any way: no military or covert missions, no support for armed groups, & etc, as the US did do in the past. I’m talking about diplomatic pressure in support of human rights.

    But you & Dan prefer to have the Castro’s beat up on ladies, jail independent trade unionists and otherwise keep their slaves in line for their new American corporate partners to exploit.

    PS for Dan: On the subject of the “tropical Gulag”, here’s a list of the over 500 jails, prisons and correctional labour camps in Cuba: http://www.cuba-junky.com/cuba/prisons.htm

  • September 14, 2016 at 11:45 am
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    Still flogging the interventionist “gotta hang tough” mentality I see. That’s really worked out soooooooo well for the Cuba people…perhaps we should have more of the same for another 55 years? Have you learned nothing?

  • September 14, 2016 at 11:08 am
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    Lonely? Not at all. On the contrary, human rights in Cuba remains the last unresolved issue to fully normalized relations with the US.

  • September 14, 2016 at 11:06 am
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    I believe that the Obama administration has done pretty much all that they plan to do for Cuba. Obama’s legacy of opening relations with Cuba has been secured even if no more concessions are made.

  • September 14, 2016 at 8:51 am
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    It’s getting to be a lonely fight for “the human rights of the Cuban People”, isn’t it ? Even the US government has pretty much gotten over the “Tropical Gulag” meme. Just a few brave, stalwart liberators left like the ones who haunt the comment section of HT.

  • September 14, 2016 at 7:46 am
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    What’s the race against the clock about? The US negotiators are “trying to consolidate the advances in relations with Cuba as part of President Obama’s legacy.”

    With no concern for the human rights of the Cuban people, who are not invited to these talks, the Obama Administration will concede on every point the Cuban side puts forward, ensuring the survival of the Castro regime.

    Unfortunately for the Cuban people, that will be Obama’s legacy.

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