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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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