Kansas Representative Exploring Ways to Trade with Cuba

A U.S. representative is seeking ways to open markets with Cuba. Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas, spoke with Cuba’s President earlier this week. The two discussed trade opportunities between Cuba and the U.S., a priority over the kansaslast few years for U.S. agriculture and more-so given the current trade climate.

Marshall says the U.S. “can and should be Cuba’s number one supplier of commodities like sorghum, soy, wheat, and corn.” Currently, Cuba imports roughly 80 percent of its food from Europe, Latin America and Asia. Marshall says Cuba represent a “significant opportunity” that the U.S. is missing because of “outdated and unnecessary restrictions, at a time when farm country needs new markets the most.”

Marshall supports eliminating outdated restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, and cosponsored the Cuba Trade Act, Americans Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, and the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act.

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Cuba-Spain Business Committee Meets in Havana

The Cuba-Spain Business Committee meets from today to tomorrow at the National Hotel in Havana, according to the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba

As part of the program, the presentation of sectoral priorities for the economic and social development of the Cuban economy and the legal framework for Foreign Investment in Cuba by executives of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment is foreseen.

Likewise, the program includes the signing of the Work Program for the period 2018-2019, the holding of business meetings, as well as a visit, scheduled for Friday, to the western Mariel Special Development Zone.

The delegation of the Iberian country is chaired by the Secretary of State for Trade of Spain, Marisa Poncela, and the president of the Spanish section of the bilateral committee, Jaime García-Legaz.

It also includes representatives of more than 70 companies from the energy, tourism, and construction sectors, basically.

On the Cuban side, the event is chaired by the Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca and the head of the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba, Orlando Hernández.

The Cuba-Spain Business Committee is organized under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment of Cuba and the Chamber of Commerce of Spain and in collaboration with the commercial offices of both countries.

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Cuba – new investment destination of Vietnamese firms

Cuba has emerged as the third biggest investment destination of Vietnamese enterprises after Laos and Cambodia.

According to the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Vietnamese firms registered to invest 19.9 million USD in Cuba in the first four months of 2018 despite geographical distance.

This move is expected to open a new door with numerous business cooperation opportunities for the two countries.

The FIA revealed some investment projects of Vietnam in the new market including an oil and gas exploration project of PetroVietnam Exploration Production Corporation (PVEP) and diaper and washing powder production projects at Mariel Special Economic Development Zone of Thai Binh Company.

Several years ago, Cuba had been forecast to be an emerging market after Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. There is plenty of room in this market and the Cuban government has repeatedly called on Vietnamese enterprises to make investment in the nation.

The opportunities have become more obvious after the visit to Cuba by Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong in March 2018 with a number of cooperation agreements signed.

Particularly, Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade and Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment inked an agreement concluding the official negotiation between the two countries on a new bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).

The two sides pledged to conduct legal revisions to bring the FTA into force as soon as possible to support trade growth and attract investment.

Experts said these are important moves to boost Vietnam-Cuba trade and investment relations.

According to the FIA, Vietnamese firms poured 153.6 million USD abroad in the first four months of 2018. The figure included nearly 129 million USD in newly-registered capital and 24.6 million USD in increased capital.

Vietnam injected 80.12 million USD in Laos, making up 52.2 percent of the total investment capital, and 25.9 million USD in Cambodia in the January-April period.

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Cleveland Extends an Economic Olive Branch to Cuba

In the midst of escalating diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Cuba, the city of Cleveland is trying to build business ties with the island nation.

In Havana last Friday, representatives from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority signed a non-binding "memorandum of understanding" with the country's maritime authority aimed at laying the groundwork for potential future trade. 

"The money is starting to flow down there," said Darrell McNair, chairman of the Port Authority. "You don't want to be last to the party in a situation like this." In recent years, ports in other statesincluding Virginia, Alabama, Texas, and Louisianahave reached similar agreements. Cleveland, he said, is the first northern port city to do so.

Although the agreement is not a guarantee that Cuba will do business with the Port of Cleveland, McNair said it puts the city in an advantageous position" if the U.S. ever lifts its embargo on Cuban trade.

"I think it's unlikely given the current political environment," said Gustavo Arnavat, Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba have flared in recent weeks, with the U.S. State Department accusing the Cuban government of failing to protect U.S. diplomats from a series of mysterious "health attacks." And in June, President Trump tightened restrictions on Cuba that President Obama had previously loosened.

On the other hand, Arnavat said there is as slight possibility that relations could thaw under Trump. "The President is a 'dealmaker,'" said Arnavat. "If the Cubans come to the president with the right deal, the president may in fact turn around and encourage the Congress to get rid of the embargo."

If that day ever comes, said McNair, cities that have made efforts to establish a relationship with Cuba will have an advantage.

"You just don't wake and decide to do business with this country and expect it to happen overnight," he said. Before the signing of the memorandum of understanding last week, he said, the Port Authority had been in talks with Cuban economic officials for over a year.

Despite the current diplomatic friction, McNair was upbeat about prospects for warming U.S-Cuba relations. "We're not politicians," he said. "We do believe there will be an opening in the trade relationship."

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Port of Cleveland signs memo of understanding with Cuba's maritime administration

HAVANA - The port authority of Cleveland, Ohio, and Cuba's maritime administration have signed a memo of understanding. 

This is the first event of its kind since the U.S. decided to pull its diplomats from their embassy in Havana after the diplomats suffered symptoms they say are related to some sort of attacks. 

The U.S. also told Cuba this week to pull 15 of its diplomats from their Washington, D.C., embassy.

According to Reuters, part of that group includes Cubans who were dealing with U.S. businesses, which may lead to more setbacks in U.S.-Cuba relations.  

"Our job is not to try and interpret what our government has to say," Darrell McNail, with the Port of Cleveland, said. "We do feel that the trade relationship will develop over time, if not today, maybe tomorrow."

Cuba already has similar agreements with ports in Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas. 

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JAMPRO hosts inward trade mission from Cuba as Agency seeks to boost export to Caribbean region

Following its Caribbean Market Mission initiative to boost regional export, Jamaica’s trade and investment promotions agency, JAMPRO, is this week hosting a Cuban delegation representing 10 organisations for a week-long trade mission from July 17-to 21, 2017.

The trade mission, a result of JAMPRO’s Cuban market development programme, will have representatives from Cuban State Agencies such as the National Bank of Cuba, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, Ministry of Domestic Trade, the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba, and key enterprises like QUIMIMPORT (chemicals), CORALSA (food), QUIMIMPEX (exports and imports), CUBASOL S.A. and IMECO (construction).  CUBASOL S.A.  is an entrepreneurial group composed of important agencies and enterprises related to the Tourism industry.  Jamaican companies will get the opportunity to promote their products for export to Cuba through factory visits organized by JAMPRO, as well as meetings with the Cuban companies to initiate negotiations for the sale of locally manufactured products. The Cuban representatives will tour Jamaican companies, to understand the country’s capacity for manufacturing to meet the demand of the Cuban market, with a population of 11 Million.  The delegation will also meet with Jamaican government counterparts to discuss improving the exporting process to Cuba. The mission will end with the “Doing Business with Cuba” seminar hosted by JAMPRO to provide companies with the knowledge necessary to do business in the country. A highlight of the seminar is a presentation on the CARICOM-Cuba trade agreement.

Having targeted the Cuban market through our many missions there, especially to FIHAV, The Havana International Fair, and hospitality trade fair HostelCuba, we needed to take the next step to cement the relationships we had initiated and concretise the demand we had identified,” said Diane Edwards, President of JAMPRO.

Vice President of Export and Market Development at JAMPRO Robert Scott added that the inward trade visit represents a leap forward for Jamaican companies, and suggests that Jamaica is now on the radar of the Cuban buying authorities. VP Scott said, “Success in the Cuban market requires persistent interactions over several years to encourage relationship building and knowledge of what is needed in that market. This mission is a breakthrough as it means our companies now have the opportunity to build relationships with key Cuban business organisations and buyers in the Jamaican space. For those who are already in contact with Cuba, they can now showcase the professionalism of their operations and convince the delegation of their ability to supply consistently high quality. We are excited about the possibilities for this mission, and we are pleased to receive support from the Embassy of Cuba in Jamaica and our embassy in Cuba. They have proactively encouraged business and dialogue between Jamaica and Cuba.”

According to His Excellency Bernardo Guanche Hernández, Cuba’s Ambassador to Jamaica, the mission is part of a continuous effort to build trade between Jamaica and Cuba and encourage knowledge sharing between both countries. He explained, “Thanks to the efficient and gracious work by JAMPRO, the Cuban delegation will visit Jamaica to fulfil an extensive agenda. The visit is part of the efforts carried out by both countries to increase trade and businesses in concordance with the excellent level of bilateral relations between Cuba and Jamaica. 

This trade mission gives continuity to the visit by Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment of Cuba (MINCEX), Ileana Nunez Mordoche, in May 2016, as part of a tour to the Caribbean, signaling the commitment we have made to boost trade. I am pleased to say that we believe we’re making significant headway in this effort, and I look forward to the outcomes of the mission to Jamaica.

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Russia-US relations are at their worst since Cold War – Moscow

Relations between Russia and the United States are at their worst since the Cold War, a Russian Foreign Ministry official has said, placing the blame on the Obama administration.

“The current state of relations between Russia and the United States, as we all know, to put it mildly, leaves much to be desired. It is no exaggeration to say that our relations today are, in fact, at their worst for the whole period after the Cold War,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Tuesday in the State Duma.

The foundation of cooperation that had been gradually created over the course of many years was almost completely destroyed in a short period of time by the previous US administration,” the minister noted, claiming that former US President Barack Obama and his entourage “began to turn towards a strain, and then a confrontation with us long before the Ukrainian crisis.”

“A variety of pressure tools have been used against Russia… in December 2012, Washington adopted the odious Magnitsky act, launched a permanent hunt for our citizens across the world, as in the case of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, tried to discredit the Olympics in Sochi,” Ryabkov said, noting that after the coup in Kiev in 2014 “the rate of all-out landslide degradation of our relations accelerated sharply.” 

Ryabkov said that the Obama administration acted without common sense both in the run-up to the US election and afterwards, further fueling anti-Russian sentiment.

Just beyond understanding and common sense was what happened before and after the presidential election in the United States… In the wake of slanderous accusations that Russia interfered in the election process, the Obama administration caused Russophobic hysteria,” the minister said.

READ MORE: US eases some restrictions on dealing with Russian Intel, but says 'no shift of policy'

He added that opponents of US President Donald Trump continue to fuel Russophobia in an attempt to discredit the new head of state, who has on a number of occasions expressed a friendlier attitude towards Russia. 

The new president of the United States was immediately faced with a well-established anti-Russian attitude among the Washington elite, shared, in fact, by all the functioning cogs of the American political class. Trump’s opponents continue to fuel Russophobia as one of the central elements to their massive campaign aimed at discrediting the new US administration,” Ryabkov stated.

This strategy, he said, may lead to a further worsening of relations, but Moscow will wait for Trump to settle in before making any definitive conclusions.

It is obvious that to some extent the US-Russia relationship may fall victim to these malicious efforts. We understand this and currently work to minimize the possible damage in this regard… We do not dramatize the situation. We understand that Trump and his appointees need time to fine-tune the foreign policy and specify their priorities,” Ryabkov said.

Among Washington’s tools for putting pressure on Russia are sanctions. In 2014, when a coup in Kiev resulted in the Ukrainian region of Crimea voting to become part of Russia, and conflict emerged between Kiev and eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region, the US began imposing sanctions on Russia, with 172 Russian citizens and 350 different entities blacklisted to date, including flagship Russian banks.

Trump has said on several occasions that lifting the sanctions is possible, yet according to Ryabkov, the issue has not yet been discussed with the new administration.

“I once again… declare that in contacts with the Americans, we have not discussed and will not discuss the criteria for lifting sanctions. If we talk about sanctions, because of which, trade with the United States sank by almost a third from $29 billion in 2014 to less than $20 billion last year, we never asked for them to be cancelled and are not going to do it.”

Ryabkov stated that despite the current state of affairs, Moscow hopes to establish constructive cooperation with Washington.

I would like to believe that the change in Washington will create a door of opportunity to improve the situation in the dialogue between our countries… We are open to constructive cooperation with the US,” the minister said, stressing that this dialogue should be built on the basis of equality and “without attempts to blackmail.”

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Trump's Cabinet Welcomes Another Billionaire: Wilbur Ross

Ross is the latest confirmation of Trump's cabinet picks, estimated to have a collective worth of US$13 billion.

The senate confirmed billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as secretary of commerce in a 72 to 27 vote less contentious than some other cabinet approvals.

RELATED: Trump Blasts 'Fake News,' Bad Trade Deals in CPAC Speech

Ross, chosen by U.S. President Donald Trump to help implement the president-elect's trade agenda, earned his fortune in part by running businesses that have offshored thousands of U.S. jobs, according to Labor Department data attained by Reuters.

In his confirmation hearing, the 79-year-old singled out the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, as a priority.

"NAFTA is logically is the first thing for us to deal with," Ross said at the hearing. "We ought to solidify relationships in the best way we can in our territory before we go off to other jurisdictions. That should be, and hopefully will be if I'm confirmed, a very early topic in this administration."

Trump has repeatedly made protectionist threats and threatened to kill NAFTA – signed by Mexico, the United States and Canada in the early '90s and called one of the worst trade deals ever by Trump.

As a high-stakes investor a decade ago, Ross specialized in turning around troubled manufacturing companies at a time when the U.S. economy was losing more than 100,000 jobs yearly due to global trade.

Supporters say Ross saved thousands of U.S. jobs by rescuing firms from failure. Data attained by Reuters through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that rescue effort came at a price: textile, finance and auto-parts companies controlled by the private-equity titan eliminated about 2,700 U.S. positions since 2004 because they shipped production to other countries, according to a Labor Department program that assists workers who lose their jobs due to global trade.

The figures, which have not previously been disclosed, amount to a small fraction of the U.S. economy, which sees employment fluctuate by the tens of thousands of jobs each month.

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