US Department Of Commerce Misstates Colgate-Palmolive's Timetable in Cuba

Information provided by the United States Department of Commerce on 21 March 2015, in conjunction with the visit to the Republic of Cuba by President Barack Obama, was not accurate:

21 March 2016
United States Department of Commerce

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE FACT SHEET: Economic development in the wake of President Obama’s regulatory changes on exports and travel to Cuba

Colgate-Palmolive: Colgate-Palmolive implements its Bright Smiles program, which provides free dental care and dental hygiene products to children in Havana.

Republic of Cuba activity by New York, New York-based Colgate-Palmolive Company (2015 revenues US$16.034 billion) commenced prior to the 17 December 2014, the date upon which President Obama announced changes to the commercial, economic and political relationship with the Republic of Cuba.  

From the company on 5 April 2016:

Colgate Palmolive’s Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program provides oral health education and screening to millions of children in more than 80 countries as part of an effort to reduce and prevent cavities among children. The global program, celebrating its 25th anniversary, has reached more than 850 million children around the world with its education curriculum. This award-winning curriculum is translated into 30 languages. Colgate’s well-established partnerships with governments, schools and communities -- combined with a committed network of volunteer dentists and educators -- make the program work. 

With government approval, we brought a humanitarian program modeled on Bright Smiles, Bright Futures to Cuba in 2014. In our first year, we ran the program in one municipality of Havana and reached approximately 10,000 children. Additionally, we presented our plan to dentists and representatives from the Ministry of Health at the Cuban Dental Congress in November 2015. 

Today, we’re extending our reach in Havana as well as expanding the program to the provinces of Cienfuegos and Pinar del Río in partnership with the Ministry of Health. With this expansion, we expect to reach more than 170,000 children by the end of 2016.” 

A question is why would the United States Department of Commerce include Colgate-Palmolive Company in its Fact Sheet when it knew that the activities of the company pre-dated 17 December 2014.

Given that the government of the Republic of Cuba presents its healthcare system as encompassing and an accomplishment on behalf of its 11.3 million citizens in spite of United States laws and regulations, surprising that it would authorize a United States-based company to engage in a country-wide humanitarian dental program.  

However, a goal of the authorization may be to encourage Colgate-Palmolive to both export products to the Republic of Cuba and eventually manufacture products within the Republic of Cuba, as does London, United Kingdom-based Unilever (2015 revenues approximately US$73 billion), an Anglo-Dutch multinational consumer goods company co-headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and in the United Kingdom.  Its products include food, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products.

On 22 January 2016, Unilever reported plans to "invest in Mariel, Cuba’s Special Development Zone. Partnering with state-owned company Intersuchel, we will build a $35 million homecare factory to open in 2017.  Cuba has a new overseas investor in its Mariel Special Development Zone and a new joint venture to celebrate.

Unilever and state-owned firm Intersuchel have signed a deal which will see the formation of a new company, Unilever-Suchel S.A. and a $35 million investment (equivalent to €32.3 million) in a personal and homecare factory which is set to open in 2017.

The factory will manufacture some of our top-selling personal and homecare international brands, including Sedal shampoo, Rexona deodorant, Omo detergent, Lux soap and Close-Up toothpaste. Unilever will take a 60% stake in the venture, and Intersuchel will hold 40%. The factory is expected to generate 300 direct jobs.

Unilever will invest in Mariel’s Special Development Zone, which allows foreign and domestic companies to trade and invest with fewer regulations and is designed to encourage overseas investment.

The signing ceremony for the joint venture was attended by Dutch Foreign Trade Minister Lilianne Ploumen, Ana Teresa Igarza, General Director of the Mariel Special Development Zone, Fabio Prado, President of Unilever Mexico & Greater Caribbean and Pedro Fraga, President of Intersuchel S.A."

Unilever reported that a company in a joint venture with a Republic of Cuba government-operated entity that expects to market the products of the joint venture to Republic of Cuba government-operated companies, need to be prepared to accept up to 720 days for account receivables.  Unilever reports that its operations have had a maximum wait of 180-days to receivable a payment.