Some North American and other foreign experts and media outlets have incorrectly interpreted the almost constant stream of U.S. business people visiting Cuba as an indication of a supposedly imminent take off in bilateral trade.
However, representatives from the U.S. marine transport, agriculture, airlines and multiple other entities from the U.S. who have been to Cuba recently, all tell how business potential is still severely limited due to the more than fifty year-old U.S. blockade.
Official Cuban sources reveal that this unilateral measure has cost the country, in addition to incalculable human damages, in excess of 883,755,000,000 dollars.
It has also occasionally had a significantly negative impact on U.S. commercial and economic interests, and on citizens whose constitutional rights are infringed through prohibiting travel to the island as well as the use of Cuban goods and services.
When envoys from U.S. enterprises, interested in doing business with Cuba, look further into the subject or get feedback from the ground, they realize that they must overcome many obstacles before their objectives can be reached.
Last May, the White House granted 15 special licenses for the provision of ferry services to Cuba, which have not been put to use due to terms imposed by the blockade on such operations.
A visit to Cuba on October 6 and 7 by U.S Trade Secretary, Penny Pritzker, demonstrated how little is known in the U.S. about how this reality affects the island, and how it simultaneously damages its North American neighbor.
Pritzker stressed that in keeping with the decision announced on last December 17 by Cuban president Raul Castro and his counterpart Barack Obama they must work on building a new relationship, and her talks with the Cuban authorities were positive in this regard.
The high ranking official took part in a meeting in which her side explained the scope and the limitations of regulations issued by the U.S.
Government last September 18, which modify certain aspects of the imposition of the blockade.
These measures, which came into effect on September 21, left many essential elements of the sanctions untouched, viewed as the primary obstacles to the normalization of bilateral ties by the island‘s authorities.
Perhaps the only area in which this decision really had an effect was in the removal of the upper limit on remittances.
Pritzker emphasized that she had not come to Cuba to sign trade agreements, but instead to get to know the island and construct the as of yet non-existent links with representatives.
This was the second visit paid to Cuba by a member of Obama‘s cabinet which follows that of Secretary of State John Kerry, who officially opened the U.S. Embassy in Havana last August 14.
The Governor of Arkansas, Asa Huchinton, who was in Havana from September 26 to 30 as head of a broad delegation of civil servants and almost 20 company representatives from her area, spoke about the harm caused to U.S. interests by the blockade.
The Republican politician believed that the next step towards the normalization of relations between both nations must be taken by Congress; in other words, the lifting of the unilateral sanctions imposed on Cuba.
Democrat Congress members Cheri Bustos and Mark Takano and their Republican colleagues Rodney Davis and Erik Paulsen, who visited Cuba in mid-October, all support the thawing of the relations between Havanaand Washington which commenced on December 17.
According to U.S. sources, agricultural sales to Cuba reached 658 million dollars in 2013, and in 2014 fell to little under 300 million. If the present obstacles did not exist, these sales could reach as high as 1,700 million.
According to the calculations of specialized media, almost forty proposals have been presented on Capitol Hill in recent months, some of which are aimed at lifting the blockade and others, on the contrary, are aimed at strengthening it to placate the ultra-conservative anti-Cuban sector.
In a similar vein, a letter sent by nine U.S. governors to the leaders of Congress was published by the media on October 13 in which they called for the lifting of restrictions on travel, financial transactions and trade, and of the combined laws that constitute the blockade.
The letter, signaling that the time had come for Congress to act and to stop impeding „normal trade between our nation and Cuba“, was addressed to Republican John Boehner, president of the House of Representatives, Mitch McConnell, leader of the Republican majority in theSenate and to the minority chiefs in both chambers.
This and other expressions in favor of lifting the sanctions against the Caribbean island indicate that the North American business community, which has a real interest in the Cuban market, is limited in what it can achieve by regulations imposed by its own government.
Even though it is only Congress that can fully lift the blockade, President Barack Obama has almost unlimited powers to effectively annul the effects of laws that he himself has asked congress members to repeal.
In spite of having taken certain steps in the right direction, the chief of the White House, who now has little more than one year left in office, could still do a whole lot more to„ remove the shackles of the past“ which hinder bilateral ties, as he himself said last December 17...Share on FB Share on TT