Cuba hosts first U.S. business conference in years, seeks investment

HAVANA, Oct 26 (Reuters) – Several dozen U.S. businessmen braved tough U.S. sanctions and Cuba’s worst economic crisis in decades to attend a conference in Havana on Wednesday focused on the new private sector and aimed at expanding the landmark Cold War-era partnership. , participated. enemies

The Cuban Chamber of Commerce and the Washington-based consultancy FocusCuba, which are hosting the summit, said the three-day event was the first such forum since at least 2018, when former US President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on a decades-old trade embargo. .

Both the Cuban and American delegations criticized the sanctions, many of which are still in place, and called on Democratic US President Joseph Biden to abandon the policies of his Republican predecessor.

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Cuban Chamber of Commerce President Antonio Luis Carricarte called the gathering at the famed Hotel Nacional a “historic day” and praised the perseverance of representatives from both sides of the Florida Straits.

During a brief cooling of relations under former President Barack Obama, hundreds of American businessmen flocked to explore the opportunities in the forbidding communist-run island nation.

Some, from cruise lines to Western Union Co ( WU.N ) and Starwood Hotels, have signed groundbreaking deals, only to be forced back by new U.S. sanctions. Others continue to trade.

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The government last year granted licenses to Cubans to operate some 5,500 small and medium-sized private businesses, the first since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, opening up new opportunities for foreign investors.

“Almost everything we do is with the emerging private sector,” said Cuban-American Hugo, who owns Miami-based Fuego Enterprises Inc ( FUGI.PK ), an online food market that processes 4,000 orders a day in Cuba.

“It’s important that American businesses see this for themselves,” said Cancio, who attended the conference.

The US businesses in attendance represent a range of industries from food service to online shopping, digital remittance, shipping and finance.

Phil Peters, the founder of FocusCuba, told Reuters: “I think the participants are looking for clarity on how investment by Cuba is possible in this new private sector, although any agreements will also have to be approved by US regulators. .” more clearly there too.”

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The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Biden administration has lifted some restrictions in Cuba on remittances, travel and immigration. He is also interested in supporting Cuba’s private sector.

Reporting by Mark Frank; Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta in Havana and Steve Holland in Washington. Edited by Margherita Choi

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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