HAVANA (PL) The Cuba-U.S. Business Council launched on September 25 in Washington, has before it a great task: to work in order to normalize bilateral trade relations, said Orlando Hernández Guillén, president of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce.

Interviewed by The Havana Reporter, the President of the Chamber of Commerce said “many U.S. businessmen and politicians have ratified their interest in doing business with Cuba.”

The Cuba-U.S. Business Council launched on September 25 in Washington, has before it a great task: to work in order to normalize bilateral trade relations, said Orlando Hernández Guillén, president of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce.On the other hand, he added “the nearness of the market, its prices, its freight costs and its quality, together with the adequate compliance with contracts signed by suppliers, make the U.S. an interesting provider.”

“Together we have verified the existing opportunities, but also the limitations presented by today’s restrictions for the economic interests of both sides”, expressed the official.

When asked about the benefits that the Business Congress could bring to Cuba, Hernández Guillén highlighted that „ We conceive it not as a mechanism limited to facilitate exports or business of United States companies in Cuba; but we salute its creation with the main objective of working for a total, fast and unconditional lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba.”

The President of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce who has a long record in the island´s foreign trade Ministry noted that “despite the limitations, Cuba has imported food products from the United States for almost six billion dollars during the period of 2001-2014.”

As extraterritorial sanctions have been applied, as part of the laws that form the blockade bills and decrees, above all on banks and companies involved in trade transactions with Cuba after 2008, when Cuba bought products for 801 million dollars, imports to the U.S dropped significantly.

Hernández Guillén underlined that in the most recent Cuban report presented to the UN General Assembly on the damages made by the blockade, he said that: “the damage caused by the blockade in the years 2014 and 2015, even during the period of dialogue and confidential conversations with the government of the United States and even after December 17, 2014, the blockade continued to be manifest with increasing extraterritorial accent, particularly in the financial sphere”.

Specifying the obstacles enacted in the financial field, the leader of Cuban businesspeople, said “restrictions on the use of the US dollar in commercial transactions, the impossibility to access commercial credits, the exportation of Cuban products, and the regulations which make transportation difficult among other restrictions, become obstacles of trade and prevent investments in Cuba.”

“New opportunities of trade and investment will open to U.S. enterprises when the blockade is lifted. This will be the only context in which our companies will be able to develop all their potentialities”, Hernández Guillén said.

Actions happen at a fast pace in USCuba relations and in October, another high-profile visitor is expected; the Secretary of Commerce of the United States, Penny Pritzker is to speak with Cuban authorities on U.S. regulations and the economy of the island.

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