Cuba Port Representatives Visiting Six Ports In The United States

A delegation of representatives from port facilities in the Republic of Cuba is visiting the United States from 21 January 2017 to 3 February 2017.

The delegation includes: Mariel Special Development Zone of Mariel (ZEDM) General Director Ana Teresa Igarza; Jose Sosa Barrios, Deputy Director of the Container Terminal Mariel S.A.; Eradis Gonzalez de la Peña, Chairman of Almacenes Universales S.A.; Rene R. Fernandez, Director of Maritime and Fluvial Transportation at the Ministry of Transportation, and other representatives..

The schedule includes visits to six (6) port facilities and signing of memorandums of understanding (MOU) between the National Port Administration of Cuba and ports in Florida and in Alabama.

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22 Bilateral Documents Signed From 17 December 2014 To 20 January 2017

During the 766-day period 17 December 2014 through 20 January 2017, the United States and government of the Republic of Cuba executed twenty-two (22) bilateral documents.  There are four (4) binding documents and one (1) treaty requiring ratification. 

The categories of the documents include agreement, arrangement, memorandum of understanding, pilot plan, joint statement, and treaty.

Federal Air Marshals Arrangement
Pilot Plan for Direct Transportation of Mail
Civil Aviation Arrangement
Health MOU
Cancer Research MOU
Agriculture MOU
Environmental Protection Joint Statement
Marine Protected Areas MOU
Hydrography MOU
Counternarcotics (CN)
DHS-MININT
INTERPOL
Wildlife Conservation and Terrestrial Protected Areas
Meteorology
Seismology
Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Agreement
Law Enforcement MOU
Migration Joint Statement
Search and Rescue
Maritime Boundaries
Sister Parks
USDA/APHIS

While the number, the varied subject matter, and the depth of documents executed by the Obama Administration and government of the Republic of Cuba during the last two years is significant, important to acknowledge that not all are binding; and the one treaty needs to be ratified by the United States Senate.

Thus, the commercial, economic and political bilateral relationship between the United States and Republic of Cuba remains tentative, fragile, and immensely subject to the impact of winds from the north and winds from the south.

A goal for the Trump Administration is to use its time in Washington to create with the government of the Republic of Cuba a bilateral relationship that doesn't depend upon unlimited quantities of glue to keep it together.

United States and Cuba Sign Maritime Boundary Treaty

The last treaty negotiated and signed between the United States and the Republic of Cuba was the Cuba-United States Maritime Boundary Agreement, signed on 16 December 1977, but never ratified by the United States Senate.  The two governments have maintained to respect the negotiated boundaries in absence of a treaty.

The new treaty is considered to be similar to the treaty of 1977; some view it as a replacement.

United States Department of State
Washington, DC
18 January 2017

Today in Washington, D.C., the United States signed a bilateral treaty with Cuba to delimit their maritime boundary in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The treaty delimits the only part of the U.S.-Cuba maritime boundary that had not previously been agreed, and covers an area of continental shelf in the eastern Gulf of Mexico that is more than 200 nautical miles from any country’s shore. The treaty is consistent with the longstanding U.S. goals to resolve our outstanding maritime boundaries and promote maritime safety and protection of the marine environment. Before entry into force, the treaty will warrant the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba
Havana, Republic of Cuba
18 January 2017

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2017 .- On Wednesday afternoon, the Treaty between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America on the Delimitation of the Continental Shelf was signed at the headquarters of the State Department in Washington. The Eastern Polygon of the Gulf of Mexico beyond 200 Nautical Miles. On the Cuban side signed the agreement José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez, Cuba's ambassador to the United States, and the US side, Mari Carmen Aponte, special adviser for the Western Hemisphere Affairs of the State Department.

With the signing of this Agreement, the continental shelf between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America in the Eastern Polygon of the Gulf of Mexico was delimited, in accordance with International Law, beyond 200 Nautical Miles. This document provides legal certainty to the Parties for the exercise of their rights of jurisdiction and sovereignty over that maritime area.  (Cubaminrex-Embacuba United States)

Embassy Of Cuba Reportedly Not Included Among 147 Government Representatives Invited To Dinner With President-Elect Trump

On 17 January 2017, President-Elect Donald J. Trump attended the Chairman's Global Dinner at the Andrew W. Mellon auditorium in Washington DC. 

The Honorable Mike Pence, Vice President-Elect of the United States, confirmed that 147 representatives of governments were invited to the event.

The Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Washington DC has neither reported receiving an invitation to the event nor sending a representative to the event.

US Signs Search & Rescue Binding Agreement With Cuba; MINREX Confirms Before US

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba
Havana, Republic of Cuba

"CUBA, January 18, 2017.- On Wednesday, January 18, the "Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Cuba and the Government of the United States of America on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue" was signed. His signature was in charge of the deputy minister of Transportation, Marta Oramas Rivero, and the charge d'affaires a.i. Of the United States Embassy in Havana, Jeffrey DeLaurentis.

The objective of this legally binding instrument is to strengthen cooperation in aeronautical and maritime search and rescue. In this sense, it will allow the coordinated action of both countries in assisting people in danger, as a result of air or sea events.

Such cooperation could include joint exercises, periodic checks of communication channels, reciprocal visits by experts and exchange of information.

The signing of this agreement ratifies the importance that Cuba grants to the search and rescue aeronautical and maritime of people in danger, and constitutes a positive step for the improvement of the relations between the two countries. (Cubaminrex-MITRANS website)"

United States Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC

"Today, the United States and Cuba signed a bilateral agreement to strengthen cooperation in the field of maritime and aeronautical search and rescue. The agreement aims to enhance effectiveness and efficiency in assisting persons in distress and to act in furtherance of obligations under international law.

The agreement provides for cooperation and coordination between the United States and Cuba in assisting persons in distress at sea, subject to each country’s respective domestic laws.

Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, signed the agreement on behalf of the United States, and Deputy Minister of Transportation Marta Oramas Rivero signed for the Republic of Cuba."

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US Exports Increase 70% In November & Increase 20% For Eleven Months Of 2016

ECONOMIC EYE ON CUBA©
January 2017

November Food/Ag Exports Increased 70% Compared To 2015- 1
21% Increase For Eleven Months Of 2016 Compared To 2015- 1
2015/2016 Will Be First Year-To-Year Increase Since 2011/2012- 2
Healthcare Product Exports Continue To Increase- 2
Humanitarian Donations- 3
Obama Administration Initiatives Product Exports- 3
U.S. Port Export Data- 13
2017 Speaking Schedule- 15

NOVEMBER FOOD/AG EXPORTS INCREASE 70%- Exports of food products & agricultural commodities from the United States to the Republic of Cuba in November 2016 were US$10,594,557.00 compared to US$6,243,680.00 in November 2015 and US$12,452,614.00 in November 2014.  

COMPLETE REPORT IN PDF FORMAT

US & Cuba Sign Law Enforcement MOU

Western Hemisphere: United States and Cuba To Sign Law Enforcement Memorandum of Understanding

On January 16, the United States and Cuba signed a bilateral Law Enforcement Memorandum of Understanding to deepen law enforcement cooperation and information sharing.

Under this memorandum, the United States and Cuba will continue the Law Enforcement Dialogue process, which includes technical exchanges on specific law enforcement issues of mutual concern such as counternarcotics, money laundering, fraud and human smuggling, and counterterrorism.

U.S. Embassy Havana Chargé d’Affaires Jeffrey DeLaurentis signed for the United States and Minister of the Interior Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla signed on behalf of Cuba. This MOU was negotiated as part of the Law Enforcement Dialogue, which is co-chaired for the United States by the Departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security.

Cuba and US sign Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Areas Associated with National Security

CUBA, January 17, 2017.- The governments of the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America signed Monday in Havana a Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in Enforcement and Enforcement of the Law that will allow the promotion and expansion of Bilateral ties in important areas of national security in both countries.

The parties agreed to increase coordination for the prevention and confrontation of terrorist acts; Illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs; Crimes committed through the use of information and communication technologies, and cybersecurity issues of mutual interest; Trafficking in persons; Smuggling of migrants; The traffic of flora and fauna; Money laundering; The falsification of identity and travel documents; Smuggling, including firearms, their parts, components, ammunition, explosives, cash and monetary instruments; Among other crimes under the jurisdiction of both countries.

The memorandum was signed by Vice-Admiral Julio Cesar Gandarilla Bermejo, Minister of Interior of the Republic of Cuba and by Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d'affaires of the US Embassy. In Havana.

The signing ceremony of the memorandum was attended by Benjamín Rhodes, US deputy national security adviser, who is on an official visit to the island, as well as representatives of the Defense and National Security Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba (Cubaminrex-Granma)

Deputy National Security Advisor To Havana On Martin Luther King Day Federal Holiday

Today, The Honorable Benjamin Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, is traveling aboard a United States military aircraft from Joint Base Andrews (JBA) to Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) in Havana, Republic of Cuba, on Martin Luther King Day, a United States federal holiday.

Unlike his visit to the Republic of Cuba in December 2016, which was not announced in advance and only made public in conjunction with funeral arrangements for H.E. Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, former president of the Republic of Cuba, this visit was reported in a media release issued by the National Security Council (NSC) this morning.

Post About December 2016 Visit: http://www.cubatrade.org/blog/2016/11/30/deputy-national-security-advisor-ben-rhodes-to-cuba-was-to-have-been-secret-visit?rq=ben%20rhodes

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 16, 2017

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Ned Price on Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes' Travel to Cuba

On Monday, January 16, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes will travel to Cuba for official meetings, cultural engagements, and to witness the signing of a U.S.-Cuba Law Enforcement Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  The arrangement will establish a framework for strengthening our partnership on counternarcotics, counterterrorism, legal cooperation, and money laundering, including technical exchanges that contribute to a strong U.S.-Cuba law enforcement relationship. Mr. Rhodes' trip to Cuba follows last week's announcement that the Department of Homeland Security has ended the so-called "wet-foot/dry foot" policy as well as the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program – another step forward to normalize relations with Cuba and to bring greater consistency to our immigration policy.

Since the President's December 2014 announcement, we have worked with the people and the Government of Cuba to take steps to normalize our relations – re-establishing diplomatic relations, opening embassies, expanding travel and commercial opportunities, and launching initiatives to help our people cooperate and innovate. The United States and Cuba have reached more than a dozen arrangements to expand cooperation in areas such as health, medical research, agriculture, environmental cooperation, hydrography, marine protected areas, counternarcotics, civil aviation, and direct transportation of mail.

The goals of the President’s Cuba policy have been simple:  to help the Cuban people achieve a better future for themselves and to advance the interests of the United States. While significant differences between our governments continue, the progress of the last two years reminds the world of what is possible when we are defined not by the past but by the future we can build together.

Starr Companies Seeking To Establish Commercial & Personal Insurance Coverage In Cuba

The establishment of a fully-operational commercial and personal insurance environment is essential for a viable, sustainable and expansive United States business presence in the Republic of Cuba.  

The availability of commercial insurance ‎is essential for a full-scale resumption of a vibrant United States financial presence to and within the Republic of Cuba.

Mr. Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman of Starr Companies, visited the Republic of Cuba on 14 January 2016 and 18 June 2015.  Mr. Greenberg is the Chairman of New York, New York-based Starr Companies and the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of New York, New York-based American International Group (AIG).

“Starr Companies (or Starr) is the worldwide marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc. and its subsidiaries.   Starr is a leading insurance and investment organization with a presence on five continents; through its operating insurance companies, Starr provides property, casualty, and accident & health insurance products as well as a range of specialty coverages including aviation, marine, energy and excess casualty insurance.  Starr’s insurance company subsidiaries domiciled in the U.S., Bermuda, Hong Kong and Singapore each have an A.M. Best rating of “A” (Excellent).  Starr’s Lloyd’s syndicate has a Standard & Poor’s rating of “A+” (Strong).  Starr’s insurance company subsidiary domiciled in China has an A.M. Best rating of “A-” (Excellent).”

Media Release Excerpts:

Starr Companies’ Assist Card Smalline S.A. Signs Letter of Intent with Asistur S.A., a Cuban Domiciled Company
July 06, 2016

New York, NY – July 6, 2016 – Starr Companies announced today that Assist Card Smalline S.A. “Assist Card,” a wholly owned subsidiary, signed a Letter of Intent with Asistur S.A. “Asistur,” domiciled in Cuba, to provide travel assistance services to the growing number of authorized travelers to Cuba.  Assist Card and Asistur signed the agreement during a recent visit to Havana, Cuba. 

“Agreements like these are important steps in expanding trade relationships between U.S. and Cuban companies,” says Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman, Starr Companies. “We look forward to continued efforts.”

Starr Companies Statement on Cuba
February 23, 2015

New York, NY – Monday, February 23, 2015 – As certain U.S.-imposed travel and other restrictions regarding Cuba have recently been eased, many U.S. travelers and businesses are considering new opportunities in the country. Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman of Starr International Company, Inc., issued a statement noting Starr Companies’ unique and historic relationship with Cuba.

“We are at the beginning of what could be new opportunities as Cuba and the United States explore ways of ending years of travel and trade restrictions,” Greenberg says. “Starr is committed to assisting clients that wish to explore their own opportunities in Cuba.”

Starr Companies established its international headquarters in Havana, Cuba in 1943, after it relocated from Shanghai, China. It operated there for nearly 15 years, until it relocated to Bermuda, after diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were severed in 1961.

The U.S. began easing restrictions on travel to Cuba on January 16, 2015, thereby prompting large numbers of U.S. individual and business travelers to begin planning visits to Cuba for the purpose of exploring potential local business, cultural and educational opportunities. However, the development of any such opportunities will take time and patience, as the Cuban people and government adjust to an evolving diplomatic and economic relationship with the United States.

Assist-Card International Holdings SA, a Starr subsidiary, operates a leading global travel assistance services business that is uniquely positioned to provide travel assistance services and insurance to individuals seeking to travel to Cuba.

“The challenges of doing business in Cuba are substantial,” Greenberg says. “But Starr is well-positioned and prepared to leverage our relationships and global network to support our clients’ entry into this market.”

Booking.com- Accepting US Credit Cards For Pre-Payment: 9 Properties In October, 46 In December, 53 In January

As of 16 January 2017, fifty-three (53) properties are listed available for booking using the reservation system of Amsterdam, Netherlands-based www.booking.com, which is owned by Norwalk, Connecticut-based The Priceline Group (more than US$55 billion in gross bookings in 2016).  They include:

Casa Teresa Un Santiago De Cuba
Hostal1511
Hostal Rio Miel
Hotel El Castillo
Hotel La Habernera
Hotel La Rusa
Hotel los Helechos
Hotel Playa Coco All-Inclusive
Hotel Playa Costa Verde All-Inclusive
Hotel Playa Pesquero All-Inclusive
Hotel El Bosque
Hotel Kohly
Hotel Playa Coco All-Inclusive
Hotel Playa Pesquero Premium All-Inclusive – Adults Only
Hotel Porto Santo
Hotel Villa Maguana
Melia Buena Vista- Adults Only
Melia Cayo Coco- Adults Only
Melia Cayo Guillermo
Melia Cayo Santa Maria
Melia Cohiba
Melia Habana
Melia Jardines del Rey
Melia las Americas- Adults Only
Melia las Antillas- Adults Only
Melia Las Dunas
Melia Marina Varadero Apartments
Melia Peninsula Varadero
Melia Santiago de Cuba
Melia Varadero
Memories Caribe- Adults Only
Memories Jibacoa- Adults Only
Memories Miramar Habana
NH Capri La Habana
Paradisus Princesa del Mar- Adults Only
Paradisus Rio de Oro Resort & Spa- Adults Only
Paradisus Varadero
Playa Coco Santa Maria All-Inclusive
Royalton Hicacos- Adults Only
Royalton Cayo Santa Maria- Adults Only
Sol Cayo Coco
Sol Cayo Guillermo
Sol Cayo Largo
Sol Cayo Santa Maria
Sol Palmeras
Sol Rio de Luna y Mares
Sol Sirenas Coral Resort
Starfish Las Palmas
Starfish Montehabana
Tryp Cayo Coco
Tryp Habana Libre
Villa Caburni
Villa Cayo Saetia
Villa Pinares de Mayari

According to the company, "Our team is working each and every day with our hotel partners throughout Cuba to expand Booking.com’s offering of bookable properties."

"Regarding your question of our payment process in Cuba, for U.S. travelers booking a Cuban stay, Booking.com collects payment from the guests through our platform at the time the reservation is made and then transfers payment to the hotel partner."

UPDATE: US Companies With A Presence In Cuba- No Manufacturing/Assembly Yet

United States Companies With A Presence In Cuba- No Manufacturing/Assembly

NOTE: Some United States-based airlines have chartered their aircraft to third parties and, thus, have operational activities within the Republic of Cuba preceding 17 December 2014.  This year, some airlines commenced operation of regularly-scheduled commercial service under their direct management; and have or will have ticket offices in the Republic of Cuba and employees who are Republic of Cuba nationals.

NOTE: There are numerous United States-based tour operators and travel agents that have agreements with Republic of Cuba government-operated Havanatur and other Republic of Cuba government-operated companies to market authorized tours within Cuba have done so prior to 17 December 2014.

1.    Alabama- Gulfwise LLC (export of one piece of equipment)
2.   California- Airbnb (residence reservations)
3.   California- Cisco Systems (donated no-cost networking academy)
4.   California- Google (donated products for interactive display; donated servers)
5.   Colorado- Frontier Airlines (flights)
6.   Colorado- Western Union (financial services for many years)
7.   Connecticut- Booking.com (owned by Priceline) (hotel reservations)
8.   Connecticut- Pearl Seas Cruises (cruise ship)
9.   Connecticut- Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (hotel management)
10.  Connecticut-General Electric (memorandum of understanding)
11.   Florida- Natbank (Mastercard)
12.  Florida- Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (cruise ship)
13.  Florida- Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (cruise ship)
14.  Florida- Silver Airlines (flights)
15.  Florida- Stonegate Bank (Mastercard & correspondent banking)
16.  Florida-Carnival (cruise ship)
17.  Georgia- Delta Airlines (flights)
18.  Illinois- Caterpillar (Puerto Rico-based authorized distributorship; donation of product)
19.  Illinois- United Airlines (flights)
20. Kansas- Sprint (roaming agreement)
21.  Massachusetts- TripAdvisor (hotel reservations)
22. Minnesota- Sun Country Airlines (flights)
23. New Jersey- IDT Corporation (direct long distance)
24. New York- Colgate-Palmolive (oral education program- early 2014)
25. New York- JetBlue Airlines (flights)
26. New York- Mastercard International (credit/debit branded cards)
27.  New York- Nestle Nespresso USA (coffee imports)
28.  New York- Roswell Park Cancer Institute (vaccine clinical trial)
29.  New York- Starr Companies (letter of intent- insurance)
30.  New York- Verizon (roaming agreement)
31.   Puerto Rico- Banco Popular de Puerto Rico (Mastercard)
32.  Tennessee- FedEx (cargo)
33.  Texas- American Airlines (flights)
34.  Texas- AT&T (roaming agreement)
35.  Texas- Southwest Airlines (flights)
36.  Washington- Alaska Airlines (flights)
37.   Washington- T-Mobile (roaming agreement)

PDF FORMAT

Visitors Traveling From The US To Cuba In 2016 Increased 34% Compared To 2015

In 2016, the total number of visitors to the Republic of Cuba who hold United States passports and/or Cuban passports was 614,433, representing an increase of 34% compared to 2015.

In 2016, the total visitors to the Republic of Cuba who did not hold Republic of Cuba passports was 284,937 compared to 161,233 in 2015.

In 2016, the total visitors to the Republic of Cuba who held Republic of Cuba passports was 329,496 compared with approximately 350,000 in 2015.

According to The Miami Herald, total passengers (United States passport holders and Republic of Cuba passport holders) traveling from Miami International Airport (MIA) to the Republic of Cuba was 588,433 compared to 444,667 in 2015.

According to the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, total passengers arriving and departing for the Republic of Cuba through MIA was 1,029,045 (arrivals- 518,247 & departures- 510,798) in 2016 compared to 808,791 (arrivals- 412,778 & departures- 396,013) in 2015, representing a year-to-year 25% increase in arrivals and 29% increase in departures.

In 2016, United States air carriers requested a combined 3,404,496 seats on an annual basis from the United States to the Republic of Cuba.  In 2016, the Republic of Cuba reported approximately 4,000,000 visitors.  The Republic of Cuba has approximately 66,547 hotel rooms, primarily in the one-star to three-star category based on United States ratings.

In 2016, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded route authorities to eight (8) air carriers for US-HAV routes and seven (7) air carriers for non-US-HAV routes.

For the US-HAV routes, the USDOT awarded 1,242,748 seats on an annual basis.

For the non-US-HAV routes, the USDOT awarded 1,060,148 seats on an annual basis.

The USDOT awarded a total of 2,302,896 seats.

The total number of visitors to the Republic of Cuba in 2016 was 4,035,577 compared to 3,524,779 in 2015.  The Republic of Cuba expects 4,199,977 visitors in 2017.

Obama Administration Changes Immigration Policies For Cuba

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

12 January 2017

Statement by the President on Cuban Immigration Policy

Today, the United States is taking important steps forward to normalize relations with Cuba and to bring greater consistency to our immigration policy. The Department of Homeland Security is ending the so-called "wet-foot/dry foot" policy, which was put in place more than twenty years ago and was designed for a different era.  Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities.  By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security is also ending the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.  The United States and Cuba are working together to combat diseases that endanger the health and lives of our people. By providing preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel, the medical parole program contradicts those efforts, and risks harming the Cuban people.  Cuban medical personnel will now be eligible to apply for asylum at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, consistent with the procedures for all foreign nationals.

The United States, a land of immigrants, has been enriched by the contributions of Cuban-Americans for more than a century.  Since I took office, we have put the Cuban-American community at the center of our policies. With this change we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws.   During my Administration, we worked to improve the lives of the Cuban people - inside of Cuba - by providing them with greater access to resources, information and connectivity to the wider world. Sustaining that approach is the best way to ensure that Cubans can enjoy prosperity, pursue reforms, and determine their own destiny. As I said in Havana, the future of Cuba should be in the hands of the Cuban people.

Should 3 in 2,923 or 3 in 766 be defined as a US Government "Top Priority"?

Whether evaluating in terms of the number of meetings to discuss a resolution to the certified claims by the United States against the Republic of Cuba since the beginning of the Obama Administration- three (3) meetings in 2,923 days or since the bilateral rapprochement on 17 December 2014- three (3) meetings in 766 days, the result is the same…. For the United States government to maintain that a resolution of the issue of the certified claims remains a “top priority” is painfully laughable.

Important to note that after the first meeting and the second meeting, the United States Department of State reported that a follow-up meeting to each had not been scheduled.

United States Department of State
Washington, DC

“The United States and Cuba will hold the third government-to-government meeting on claims in Havana, Cuba, on January 12, 2017. The U.S. delegation will be led by Brian Egan, the Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State. The meeting will allow the delegations to build upon previous discussions in Havana and Washington, DC, and to exchange views on technical details and methodologies regarding outstanding claims.

Outstanding U.S. claims include claims of U.S. nationals that were certified by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, claims related to unsatisfied U.S. court judgments against Cuba, and claims held by the United States Government. The United States continues to view the resolution of these claims as a top priority.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Havana, Republic of Cuba

"CUBA, January 12, 2017. On Thursday, January 12, the third meeting between representatives of the governments of Cuba and the United States on the subject of mutual compensation was held in Havana. The Cuban delegation was chaired by Abelardo Moreno Fernández, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and the US, by Brian Egan, State Department legal adviser.

At this meeting, which continued in Washington on July 28, 2016, delegations continued the exchange on the claims of both States and evaluated possible mechanisms for joint settlement of mutual claims as part of the negotiation process of this complex theme.

The Cuban delegation reiterated that within the framework of this solution, it is essential to consider the claims of the Cuban people for human and economic damages, as reflected in the sentences issued by the Provincial People's Court of Havana in 1999 and 2000, respectively.

The representatives of both governments reiterated the importance and usefulness of continuing these exchanges. (Cubaminrex)"

Bilateral Meeting Timeline

17 December 2014 to 8 December 2015- 356 days between President Barack Obama’s 2,283-word statement (that did not mention certified claimants) and the first meeting of representatives from the government of the Republic of Cuba and the United States Department of State to discuss the issue of certified claims.

8 December 2015 and 28 July 2016- 233 days between the first meeting and second meeting of representatives from the government of the Republic of Cuba and the United States Department of State to discuss the issue of certified claims.

28 July 2016 to 12 January 2017- 168 days between the second meeting and third meeting of representatives from the government of the Republic of Cuba and the United States Department of State to discuss the issue of certified claims.

12 January 2017 to 20 January 2017- 8 days between the third meeting of representatives from the government of the Republic of Cuba and the United States Department of State to discuss the issue of certified claims and the end of the Obama Administration.

Context

The soil upon which United States policy, regulations and laws sprouted since 1961 was created by the seizure of assets by the government of the Republic of Cuba.

There were 8,821 claims of which 5,913 awards have been certified by the United States Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (USFCSC- https://www.justice.gov/fcsc) at the United States Department of Justice which are valued at US$1,902,202,284.95.  

Of these claims, thirty (30) United States-based companies hold 56.85% of the total value.  The USFCSC permitted interest to be accrued in the amount of 6% per annum; with the current value ranging from US$6 billion to US$9 billion.

During the last twenty-three (23) months, the United States Department of State has failed to either create a viable foundation for a settlement of the certified claims or moved significantly forward the process from discussion to negotiation.  They have had a chance.  Now is a moment for a renewed dynamic.

The Obama Administration has professed that a settlement of the certified claims is a priority- a high priority.  There were two meetings in twenty-three months.  The date for a second meeting was not agreed to after the first meeting.  The date for a third meeting was not agreed to after the second meeting.  So much for the issue of the certified claims being a "top priority" and “high priority” for the Obama Administration.

Based upon the results, the Obama Administration would had no intention of negotiating a settlement, but remained content with the imagery of dialogue.  The questions that the United States Department of State never answered:  

  • Why haven’t Certified Claimants Sector Working Groups been established?   
  • Why haven’t certified claimants been summoned to meetings at the United States Department of State to create a negotiating platform?  
  • Is there a Certified Claimants Committee?  Thirty (30) of the certified claimants account for 56% of the principal value of the certified claims.
  • Have Agendas been created- and followed?  
  • Have Modalities of Settlements been established?
  • Where is the Guidance?

Relating Blog Posts:

http://www.cubatrade.org/blog/2016/12/1/zigs56x0gme3a9rqg7aecx9vf2gqgk?rq=certified%20claims

http://www.cubatrade.org/blog/2016/7/29/transcript-of-state-department-briefing-about-us-cuba-claims-discussion?rq=department%20of%20state%2C%20cuba

http://www.cubatrade.org/blog/2016/7/24/28-29-july-2016-may-be-near-last-opportunity-for-us-claimants-to-advocate-face-to-face-for-settlement-before-the-end-of-the-obama-administration?rq=department%20of%20state%2C%20cuba

http://www.cubatrade.org/blog/2016/7/28/us-department-of-state-reports-on-claims-discussion?rq=department%20of%20state%2C%20cuba

Rex Tillerson references Cuba in his remarks to US Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Mr. Rex Tillerson references the Republic of Cuba in his remarks to the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee...

United States Secretary of State Designate Rex Tillerson
Senate Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement
11 January 2017

Excerpts…..

Good morning.

I am honored to have the backing of Senator Cornyn and Senator Cruz from my home state of Texas. I also want to thank Senator Nunn for his commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, and Secretary Gates for his service to eight presidents and his own leadership as President of the Boy Scouts of America.

Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, and Members of the Committee, it is an honor to appear before you today as President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State and to seek the approval of this Committee and the full Senate for my confirmation.

But our leadership demands action specifically focused on improving the conditions of people the world over, utilizing both aid and economic sanctions as instruments of foreign policy when appropriate.

And we must adhere to standards of accountability. Our recent engagement with the government of Cuba was not accompanied by any significant concessions on human rights. We have not held them accountable for their conduct. Their leaders received much, while their people received little. That serves neither the interest of Cubans or Americans.

Abraham Lincoln declared that America is “the last best hope of Earth.” Our moral light must not go out if we are to remain an agent of freedom.

United States and Cuba to Hold Meeting to Fight Trafficking in Persons

United States Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 11, 2017

The United States and Cuba will hold a meeting to coordinate their efforts to fight trafficking in persons in Washington, D.C., January 12 and 13.  The U.S. delegation will be led by Ambassador-at-Large Susan Coppedge of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and Deputy Assistant Secretary John Creamer of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Working-level representatives from the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services will also participate.  The Cuban delegation will be led by Director of Bilateral Issues Yuri Ariel Gala Lopez of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Directorate General for the United States and will include officials from various Cuban agencies.

This is the fourth consecutive exchange between the United States and Cuba on efforts to prevent and prosecute trafficking in persons and protect trafficking victims.  In addition to sharing information about best practices, both sides will seek to identify areas of possible future cooperation.

Charcoal Import From Cuba Will Impact Florida & FedEx

UPDATE... (first published 5 January 2017)

Who Benefits From Charcoal Imports From Cuba? State of Florida, FedEx Among Others...

40 metric tons (88,185 pounds) of charcoal, at US$420.00 per ton, for a total value of US$16,800.00, made from the invasive woody plant marabu (sicklebush) will be exported from the Republic of Cuba and delivered to Port Everglades in Broward County, Florida, on 18 January 2017 in two (20) twenty-foot containers by Jacksonville, Florida-based Crowley Liner Services (2016 revenues exceeded US$2 billion).  The wholesale price for the charcoal is approximately US$360.00 per ton.

The charcoal is reported as clean-burning; often used in pizza ovens and bread ovens.

The transaction does not require a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury and/or Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the United States Department of Commerce.  The importer must provide documentary evidence upon entry to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that the product was produced by "independent Cuban entrepreneurs."

2,672 bags of the charcoal will be marketed to restaurants and sold online to consumers for US$45.95 (free shipping) per 33-pound bag (US$.72 per pound) under the brand name "Fogo" by Hialeah, Florida-based Fogo Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal (www.fogocharcoal.com).  The gross revenues from the sales will be approximately US$122,778.40

Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx (2016 revenues approximately US$50 billion), could earn gross revenues of approximately US$32,064.00 if all 2,672 bags were shipped using its services.  Fogo Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal uses FedEx.

Charcoal sales are exempt from sales tax in the State of Florida, so neither the state nor Miami-Dade County will receive any revenue.

In 2016, charcoal sales in the United States were approximately US$737 million.  The state of Missouri is the largest source of charcoal in the United States.

The charcoal is produced by worker-owned cooperatives throughout the Republic of Cuba and has been reportedly exported to six countries; opportunities are being sought in Germany and in the United Kingdom.  Approximately 40,000 metric tons to 80,000 metric tons, valued at US$14,400,00.00 to US$28,800,00.00, of marabu charcoal are exported from the Republic of Cuba on an annual basis.

Madrid, Spain-based Ibecosol S.L. (Ibérica de Combustibles Sólidos) has provided production and export assistance to the Republic of Cuba since 2007 at facilities located in the provinces of Ciego de Avila and Jobabo.  The company exports more than 10,000 metric tons annually, less than optimal 25,000 metric tons annually.

The charcoal is sold by cooperatives to a local packager, which sells it on to Republic of Cuba government-operated CubaExport.  The local packager and CubaExport each take a 1% to 2% commission, according to Ms. Isabell O'Reilly, General Director of CubaExport.  The export contract was signed by Ms. Aurelio Mollineda, Director of Republic of Cuba government-operated Gecomex, a subsidiary of CubaExport.

Other Republic of Cuba government-operated companies engaged in the production of charcoal including Empresa de Flora y Fauna, Corporacion Cimex, Citricos Caribes, and Alcona.

Products of privately-operated or cooperative farms in the Republic of Cuba are authorized by the United States government for export to the United States. 

In 2016, coffee was the first agricultural commodity authorized by the United States government for importation from the Republic of Cuba: http://www.cubatrade.org/blog/2016/6/20/nespresso-to-indirectly-import-coffee-from-cuba-to-usa?rq=nespresso

CubaExport reports that it hopes to add honey to authorized exports to the United States.

Why Be Flippant In Front Of Your Successor? Providing Ammunition To A Retired General

When President-Elect Donald Trump has said that he does not agree with Obama Administration policies and regulations relating to the Republic of Cuba, and has indicated that there will be changes to United States policies and regulations relating to the Republic of Cuba, what value is provided by The Honorable Susan Rice, Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor, flippantly mentioning the importance of visitors to the Republic of Cuba "bringing back all the rum and cigars they can" in front of an audience that includes her designated successor- who will be charged advocating changes to actions by the Obama Administration?

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2017

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice
Remarks at “Passing the Baton” Conference
U.S. Institute of Peace
Tuesday, January 10, 2017

As delivered—

"Good morning.  Thank you, Steve.  This week, especially, it’s nice to be reminded that there’s life after being National Security Advisor.  Thank you to Nancy Lindborg and the U.S. Institute of Peace for inviting me, and for the incredible work you do.  It’s always good to see so many friends and colleagues from across government.  And, I want to welcome my successor, General Mike Flynn, not only to this conference but to his new position.  Mike, I imagine you’ll soon appreciate why—instead of a baton—I’d be better off passing you a case of Red Bull.  

It continued as we stood strongly for the rights and dignity of all people around the world.  For citizens in Myanmar to elect their leaders.  For dissidents in China, journalists in Ethiopia, and ladies in white in Cuba to speak or organize free from repression.  For women and girls around the world to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that are their birthright.  For the rights of people everywhere to love whoever they love.

For the first time in half a century, Americans are flying direct from Miami to Havana, creating new opportunities for Cubans and Americans—and bringing back all the rum and cigars they can.  

Shedding that historical baggage removed an irritant that impeded cooperation and progress in the region.  Thanks in part to our opening to Cuba, U.S. relations with Latin America have never been better—and with this year’s peace agreement in Colombia, the longest-running war in the hemisphere came to an end." 

United States and Cuba Sign Bilateral Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Agreement

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC

The United States and Cuba signed a bilateral agreement to prepare for and respond to oil spills and hazardous substance pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida on January 9, 2017.

Under this agreement, the United States and Cuba will cooperate and coordinate in an effort to prevent, contain, and clean up marine oil and other hazardous pollution in order to minimize adverse effects to public health and safety and the environment.

Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Havana Jeffrey DeLaurentis signed the agreement on behalf of the United States. Vice Minister Eduardo Rodríguez Dávila of the Ministry of Transportation signed for the Republic of Cuba.


Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba
Havana, Republic of Cuba

On Monday, January 9, the Cuban and US governments signed the "Cooperation Agreement between the United States of America and the Republic of Cuba on the preparation and response to pollution caused by oil spills. Hydrocarbons and other harmful and potentially hazardous substances in the Gulf of Mexico and the Strait of Florida. "

Its was signed by the Deputy Minister of Development of the Ministry of Transport (MITRANS), Eduardo Rodríguez Davila and the charge d'affaires of the United States Embassy in Havana, Jeffrey DeLaurentis.

From Politico & Politico Pro.... Trump Administration

Politico & Politico Pro
Arlington, Virginia
3 January 2017

CUBA COUNCIL CHIEF: PRE-TRUMP CUBA FOCUS COULD YIELD SPATE OF DEALS: U.S. companies have been racing to finalize deals before the president-elect takes office on Jan. 20, and about seven or eight “meaningful” announcements could be made before Inauguration Day, said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. Kavulich told Morning Trade that the business community would be hardest hit if Donald Trump moves quickly after Inauguration Day to reverse President Barack Obama’s push to normalize relations with Cuba, an initiative that is vulnerable because Obama furthered it mainly through executive actions.

“The council and others have been pushing the administration since the ninth of November to issue every license for which there’s been an application as fast as possible — because licenses that are issued are less likely to be rescinded; because generally they're good for one to three years; and, more importantly, a license that has been implemented is even more so likely to be renewed,” Kavulich said during a recent interview at POLITICO’s Rosslyn, Va., headquarters.

But the bigger question is whether the Trump administration will actually undo any of Obama’s executive actions or whether Trump would leave them in place but not move further toward rapprochement, Kavulich said. With travel to the island, for example, “I think they’re prepared to not necessarily dig deeply, but by simply digging at all, the perception is going to help create the narrative that they want,” he said, referring to the incoming administration. “Which will be that there’s more enforcement, so therefore less encouragement of somebody to want to visit Cuba, so therefore Cuba earns less money.” Read the full Q&A with Kavulich here.

POLITICO Pro Q&A: John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council

By Megan Cassella

As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to enter the White House, business groups and advocates in favor of normalizing relations and strengthening commercial ties with Cuba are racing to finalize deals they fear the president-elect will seek to tear up.

Trump has come down on both sides of the issue: As a presidential candidate, he said rapprochement was "fine" and that "50 years is enough" for an economic embargo, but he pledged in a tweet late last month to "terminate" ties with Cuba if it does not agree to a "better deal" than what it committed to in the talks that preceded the diplomatic opening.

With questions swirling as to which way Trump will go on Cuba once he enters the White House, POLITICO sat down in our Rosslyn, Va., headquarters with John Kavulich, 23-year president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a private nonprofit that provides commercial and economic information on Cuba to the U.S. business community, to discuss Trump's possible steps and what could happen to Obama's diplomatic legacy once he leaves public office.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What contact have you had with the Trump team so far, and what’s your take on where things stand now in regards to Cuba?

The council was contacted during the campaign by individuals associated with the campaign to provide information and analysis, which we did, and then has continued to be contacted post-election for analysis and data, and so we provided that. They've asked for what we've done, and then [for] background in terms of why we think some decisions might have not been made by the Obama administration, why some were, what Trump administration might do. ...

But I think that they're focusing on a lot of issues, and Cuba isn't top of the list — nor should it be. ... It does have significance to some members of Congress, transition team members, landing team members and individuals, advocates, but from a macro standpoint, I think few taxpayers want the Trump administration to put Cuba in their 100-day portfolio.

What do you see as the state of play in terms of the U.S. stance toward Cuba policy right now? How much do you think the Obama administration has accomplished, how much is set in stone, and where do you see the Trump administration taking things from here?

Nothing is set in stone, because there are no statutes, there are no statutory foundations to anything the president has done during the last 24 months nor, for that matter, anything he's done since Jan. 20, 2009. People often forget this occupant of the White House had a House and Senate majority for two years and did nothing relating to Cuban statutes when he could have, and likely may have changed some Cuban statutes but didn't choose to do so. He chose the regulatory path, which was always fraught with potential peril.

The challenge is that neither the Obama administration nor the government of Cuba prepared for an outcome whose last name wasn't Clinton. And in the business world, we prepare for unexpected outcomes. It's what you do, especially when we risk money.

Where do you see the Trump administration, once it's settled in, taking things from here?

Generally, they'll be reactive as opposed to proactive. If Cuba does something to warrant a column in POLITICO, The Hill, Roll Call, The Washington Post, The New York Post (because the president reads that), The New York Times, MSNBC, if Joe Scarborough starts talking about it, they're going to react, unless they change, and unless the president-elect changes the way he has behaved during the last two years of the campaign. So I think that they will be reactive.

There are individuals in the landing teams, the various departments and agencies, at the transition team within 725 Fifth Ave. in New York, and individuals within the purview of the campaign who want to be aggressive, who believe that primarily the travel-related initiatives of the Obama administration are the ones that need to be constrained. Some of them believe that they should be constrained because they violate the letter and the spirit of [Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act]. And they sincerely believe that the president has gone too far in terms of how he has defined who can go and under what conditions they can go.

There are others who are looking at it from an ideological standpoint, and they simply are feeling as long as there is a Castro breathing that the goal should be not to reward, enrich or sustain, it should be to deny, constrain and kill — kill the species that is the commercial, economic and political system led by Fidel and now Raul.

So you have one group that is based on firm belief in statute and presidential prerogative and the other is based on ideology. You put those two together — which is what the Trump administration is going to have — and it can be toxic. Meaning the result can be unpredictable. But, overall, the individuals surrounding the president-elect, they want to do something, and it’s almost certainly going to be travel-related. And they will do so with the foundation that they're simply upholding U.S. law where President [Barack] Obama violated U.S. law.

What are the biggest questions in your mind in regards to Cuba when you think about the incoming administration?

Will they be proactive or reactive? That would have to be ... everyone’s first focus. Second is how deep they want to penetrate into being proactive or reactive. Do they simply want to not permit any more, or do they want to remove some of what exists? I think with travel, they’re prepared to not necessarily dig deeply, but by simply digging at all, the perception is going to help create the narrative that they want, which will be that there’s more enforcement, so therefore less encouragement of somebody to want to visit Cuba, so therefore Cuba earns less money.

You mentioned at the start that nothing is set in stone. How much do you think feasibly or realistically Trump can or will undo Obama's executive actions?

All he needs is ink in the pen.

But what about these commercial ties and the seemingly widespread popular opinion that voters are in favor of normalization?

The polls really don't mean much. They generally will be seen as meaningful when they’re supporting the president’s position, and will be dismissed as not important when they’re not. And for President Obama, [Deputy National Security Adviser] Ben Rhodes would often quote them as a reason for the initiatives. But while the numbers are probably accurate, they’re wide but they’re not deep. Very few people truly care about Cuba. It’s just that if you ask somebody a question, depending on how you frame it, you're going to get an answer that generally is: "Yes, I don't see why we're still doing [the embargo], and now Fidel’s dead."

But how much passion is there behind it? There isn’t. And my basis for that statement … is, what action has there been in 16 years in the United States Congress relating to Cuba? What law has changed ... in 16-plus years? None. So, for those that say that the will of the American people wants there to be change with Cuba, that may be true, but the only passion are some advocates that thus far have failed at their one stated purpose, which is to change U.S. law. So what have you got?

I know that it may sound dispassionate and surgical and medical-like to be saying this, but if you’re an accountant, you have sales, you have expenses, you have net profit. With legislation, you have how many [lawmakers] for it, how many you have against it, what’s the outcome? Well they’ve had 16 years. Then they had two years where the president’s party controlled the Congress with substantial majorities. Then they had the last 24 months where the president has made it a legacy issue, they didn't do anything on any of it. So that’s the reality that’s going to confront these people.

So if President Trump tries to claw back at the commercial, the argument is going to be, "Don’t harm U.S. business opportunities." Their [the administration's] argument is going to be, "Please list the business opportunities. What have they done? Who’s done what? ..."

I don't think that, based on what I’ve heard, there’s not a lot of appetite to reverse any of the commercial engagement. But there is appetite to focus more on what is being permitted and how it's being permitted. For example, Nespresso, the coffee — when State issued the guidelines of how, under what conditions, coffee would be permitted to be imported to the United States, it was rather specific on the conditions that would need to be in place. But when Nespresso made its announcement, it talked about what it was going to be doing rather than what was in place. So you may see the Trump administration say, "If this stuff’s going to happen, we want to see that what needs to be there is there as opposed to it being aspirational."

Before Inauguration Day on Jan. 20th, companies are racing to get things finalized. What’s in the pipeline?

There are probably seven or eight announcements that could take place that are meaningful. The council and others have been pushing the administration since the 9th of November to issue every license for which there’s been an application as fast as possible. Because licenses that are issued are less likely to be rescinded, because generally they're good for one to three years. And more importantly, a license that has been implemented is even more so likely to be renewed.

The problem, again, for the administration, is they never expected Hillary Clinton to lose. So no one thought to say to the Cuban government, "Hey gang, remember... ." On Dec. 17, 2014, President Obama should have said to President Castro: "There’s a timeline here. It ends on the 8th of November of 2016. It doesn’t end on the 20th of January 2017, because we don’t know what's going to happen. So therefore, we ... need to plan for the unexpected."

That conversation never took place. So the Cubans are as guilty of not planning as the Obama administration. And the business community is the one that suffered for that.

What are some of your boldest predictions for what you actually see happening in 2017?

The narrative of 2017 is going to be written by Cuba, and the Trump administration is going to be responding to that narrative because the clock will begin ticking for the transition from Raul Castro in succession to Miguel Diaz-Canel 13 months after Trump is sworn in. And that’s going to become the media narrative, that’s what everybody’s going to start focusing on: What will the U.S. government do either to incentivize the Canel administration or to reward the Canel administration? So incentivize meaning lay out in advance, 'This is what we want to see you do, and then we’re going to do this.' Or reward, meaning, "You do this, we’re going to do this." So it’s sort of transactional.