Category Archives: cuba

Helms-Burton and CARICOM-Cuba Trade

Alicia Nicholls

Last week (April 17, 2019), United States (US) Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that the US will for the first time enforce the provisions of Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996. Title III gives US citizens, who were owners of private properties in Cuba confiscated by the Cuba Government following the 1959 revolution, the right to bring claims against foreign individuals and entities utilizing or deriving economic benefits from those confiscated properties.

Because of the threat of legal challenges being brought by third States before the World Trade Organisation (WTO), President Bill Clinton, as well as his successors President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama never enforced Title III. However, the Trump Administration has indicated that it will start enforcing these provisions with effect from May 2, 2019.

Given the extraterritorial nature of this development, this article briefly explores what possible implications this development may have for CARICOM firms which currently trade or invest in Cuba or are seeking to do so.


The LIBERTAD Act, more commonly known as the Helms-Burton Act, gives legislative force to the commercial, financial and economic embargo which the US has imposed on Cuba since the 1960s to force regime change in that Caribbean country. It is an embargo which the international community has condemned as illegal, immoral and ineffective.

Title III (Protection of Property Rights of United States Nationals) of the Helms Burton Act gives US nationals, whose property was confiscated (that is, nationalised or expropriated) by the Government of then Cuban leader Fidel Castro following the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the right to bring an action in US federal courts against any person who “traffics” in confiscated property.

Three main things should be noted here. Firstly, the definition of “traffics”, as used in Title III, is broad. It includes for example not just selling, transferring, etc confiscated property, but engaging in a commercial activity using or otherwise benefiting from confiscated property, inter alia.  This means, for example, that the US owner of a piece of property, such as a hotel plant, confiscated by the Castro Regime, can bring an action  in the US courts against any foreign firm which uses that hotel plant or even more nebulously, “engages in a commercial activity using or otherwise benefiting from” that hotel plant.

Secondly, claims can also be brought by persons who were not US nationals at the time their property was confiscated, which would include Cuban-Americans who are now naturalized US citizens. This, therefore, potentially increases the number of claims that could be brought. According to the US Department of Justice’s data, the US Foreign Claims Settlement Commission adjudicated a total of 8,821 claims in the Cuba program, of which it found 5,913 to be compensable.

Thirdly, the Act is extraterritorial in reach. It empowers US citizens who are owners of confiscated property to bring claims in US courts against any “person” who traffics in said confiscated property. The term “person” is defined in the Act as “any person or entity, including any agency or instrumentality of a foreign state.” Moreover, under Part IV (Exclusion of Certain Aliens) foreign nationals and their spouses and minor children may be barred from entry into the US if found to have converted confiscated property for personal gain or traffic in confiscated property.

These draconian provisions are meant to act as a deterrent to businesses from third States seeking to invest or do business in Cuba, in an effort to undermine  the Cuban economy. They are also a fetter on the sovereignty of third States wishing to trade with Cuba, which raises questions about their compatibility with international law, and more specifically, international trade law.

Indeed, back in the mid-1990s, the EU had sought to challenge the compatibility of the Helms-Burton with WTO rules. This challenge was withdrawn after President Clinton agreed to suspend the right to private action under Title III. The Act allows the President to suspend Title III for up to six months at a time if deemed to be in US national security interests. Presidents Bush II and Obama also suspended this right of private action. In fact, the Obama administration saw an attempt at the normalization of US-Cuba relations, including the resumption of diplomatic ties. The Trump Administration, however, has taken a hard lined stance on Cuba. In January 2019, the US Department of State released a statement indicating they would only give a 45 day extension of the Title III suspension while undertaking a “careful review”. This ultimately led to the decision of April 17, 2019 to no longer suspend Title III.

Possible Implications of Helms-Burton Right of Action on CARICOM-Cuba Trade

What does this development mean for CARICOM-Cuba trade potentially? CARICOM countries and Cuba have a long history of cooperation and friendship, most notably in the areas of education, health and culture. Turning to trade, CARICOM has a bilateral partial scope trade agreement with Cuba known as the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (TECA) which was signed in 2000. It is a partial scope agreement in that it liberalizes trade between a limited number of goods between the parties, with the contemplation that a free trade agreement would eventually be negotiated. It also includes limited provisions on cooperation in other trade-related areas. Although a second protocol to the Agreement was signed in 2017, including an expansion of the list of goods, no free trade agreement exists as yet.

Regrettably, detailed statistics on the level of CARICOM-Cuba trade or CARICOM firms’ level of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Cuba have been difficult to obtain. According to an ECLAC study entitled “An Assessment of the Performance of CARICOM Extraregional Trade Agreements” published in 2015, Cuba was the destination for 0.11% of CARICOM exports in 2013. According to a June 2018 press release from the Trinidad & Tobago Ministry of Trade and Industry, “Trinidad and Tobago is currently Cuba’s largest CARICOM trading partner, recording 80% of trade in the region”. Reporting from the Guardian Newspaper of Trinidad reveals that Trinidad & Tobago “ex­port­ed an es­ti­mat­ed $456 mil­lion in goods to Cu­ba in 2016 and im­port­ed $37 mil­lion worth of prod­ucts” and Trinidad is one of Cuba’s biggest trading partner in the LAC region.

Although CARICOM-Cuba merchandise trade remains small, the Obama-era roll-backs saw increased interest on the part of CARICOM firms in exploring Cuba as a potential market. Caribbean countries have established or sought to establish trade liaisons in their Cuba-based diplomatic missions. The establishment of a direct air link via the Trinidad & Tobago-based Caribbean Airlines also made it easier for tourism and scoping out business opportunities.

Regrettably, the current US administration’s  hardened stance potentially creates a cloud of uncertainty for CARICOM firms currently doing business or seeking to do business in Cuba. Once Title III goes into effect, Caribbean firms found to be dealing in confiscated property could be exposed to costly litigation before US courts and persons found liable face possible barred entry of themselves and their immediate families to the US. Extra-regionally, some countries, such as Canada’s Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act (FEMA) and the EU’s Blocking Statute, bar the enforcement and recognition of US judgments under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. I am uncertain whether any Caribbean country has a similar Act, and this is something on which CARICOM firms should seek counsel from their attorneys-at-law.

It should be noted that those firms which would be most likely impacted would be US firms which invested in Cuba during the Obama-era détente, as well as European firms which have substantial business interests in Cuba, notably in the tourism sector. For this reason, it is no surprise that the EU, Canada, UK and Mexico have strongly condemned this latest action by the Trump Administration. The EU has stated that it would “consider all options at its disposal to protect its legitimate interests, including in relation to its WTO rights”.

As I noted earlier, the extraterritorial application of the US Helms-Burton Act is of questionable legality under international law and meant to scare businesses from investing in Cuba in an effort to cripple the Cuban economy. Therefore, I am by no means advocating that CARICOM firms should stop investing in Cuba. What they should do, however, is to pay careful attention to this development and seek legal advice from their attorneys to ascertain and mitigate any current or potential areas of legal exposure.  For example, they should ascertain whether any property from which they are seeking to benefit commercially, is currently subject to a US claim. That said, however, the prospects of legal challenges before the WTO, as well as the upcoming US presidential election due in 2020, means that the durability of this policy reversal is not guaranteed.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.


CARICOM & Cuba Foreign Ministers meet

Alicia Nicholls

Foreign Affairs ministers of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Republic of Cuba met at the iconic Tryp Habana Libre Hotel in Havana, Cuba, on March 11, 2017, for the Fifth Ministerial Meeting of CARICOM-Cuba. As noted in the official communique, the meeting also marks the commemoration of the Forty-fifth Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Independent States of CARICOM and Cuba and the Fifteenth Anniversary of Cuba-CARICOM Day.

Discussion items at the Meeting touched on climate change, cooperation in areas of mutual concern such as food security, education and health, solidarity with the Republic of Haiti, reparations for slavery, CARICOM countries’ inclusion on the EU’s list of non-cooperative tax list, the promotion of sustainable tourism, migrants’ rights, inter alia.

Caribbean countries have been among the most vocal supporters of Cuba in the face of the illegal US embargo. The official communique concluded with a call for “the President of the United States to use his broad executive powers to substantially change the application of the blockade and the Congress of that country to proceed with its elimination”.

Ministers also acknowledged the legacies of the late former Cuban President, Dr. Fidel Castro, and former Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, who died last year, and the former Haitian President, Rene Preval who passed away last week.

The full communique may be viewed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.


CARICOM and Cuba reach agreement to expand market access preferences

Alicia Nicholls

It has been a while in coming but today the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat announced in a press release that CARICOM and Cuba have finally agreed to expand the level of preferential access to each other’s markets as part of efforts to update the Cuba-CARICOM Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement.

According to the Press Release, CARICOM and Cuba reached agreement at the end of the Tenth Meeting of the CARICOM-Cuba Joint Commission established pursuant to the trade and economic cooperation agreement. This meeting took place between January 30-31, 2017 at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana.

The Press release notes the following outcomes agreed to:

  • Duty-free entry for a number of CARICOM agricultural products and manufactured goods, such as beer and fish into the Cuban market
  • Duty-free access for Cuban goods, including pharmaceuticals, into the markets of CARICOM member states
  • More Developed Countries (MDCs) of CARICOM (Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) will also determine the level of preference they will grant to Cuba on a number of other items.

The release also notes that exploratory discussions were held on trade in services and there has been agreement to continue the exchange of information and cooperation on services trade, particularly tourism.

The Cuba-CARICOM Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement is a reciprocal trade agreement between Cuba and thirteen member states of CARICOM. Bahamas and Haiti were not part of the negotiations. The agreement was signed in Canouan,  St. Vincent & the Grenadines. According to a Jamaican Gleaner article from July 2016, negotiations on updating the Cuba-CARICOM Agreement began in 2006 but have been protracted.

It is a partial scope agreement as it mainly covers goods trade. However, the agreement contemplates expansion towards to a full free trade agreement and has a built-in work plan which includes working towards the adoption of double taxation agreements between CARICOM member states and Cuba, to commence services  trade negotiations, to adopt an agreement on intellectual property rights, to negotiate an agreement for the protection and promotion of investment, among other things. On the latter point, Cuba already has individual bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with several CARICOM states, including Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.


Fidel Castro: Friend to the Caribbean and Anti-Imperialist Hero

(Photo source: Pixabay)

Alicia Nicholls

Former Cuban President and leader of the 1959  Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, took leave of this earthly realm on November 25, 2016 at the age of 90. Coincidentally, his passing took place on the anniversary of the Granma’s departure from Mexico in 1959 to liberate Cuba.

Despite the prevailing Washington narrative of Comrade Castro as a “brutal despot and tyrant” who trampled human rights and impoverished his people, most of us in the Caribbean remember “El Comandante” as a revolutionary figure, a freedom fighter, a friend to the Caribbean and an anti-imperialist hero.

In these few paragraphs, I will outline some of the things that are often forgotten in the common narrative about the bearded Commander who seized power from corrupt dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and ruled Cuba for nearly five decades, until transferring power to his younger brother, Raul Castro, in 2006 during a period of illness. On February 24, 2008 Raul Castro officially became President.

Friend to the Caribbean

Since the 1970s, Caribbean countries have enjoyed close diplomatic ties with Cuba and have repeatedly called for the US to bring an end to the embargo.  Thanks to Mr. Castro, thousands of Caribbean students have benefited from Cuban government scholarships to study medicine at Cuban universities. Many other persons have benefited from medical treatment, particularly ophthalmological treatment, by Cuban doctors.

Cuba’s solidarity with its Caribbean sisters has continued under current President Raul Castro. Cuba has sent medical doctors to assist Caribbean countries in the wake of disasters, including to Haiti following Hurricane Georges in 1998, the earthquake in 2010 and more recently, sending over 30 additional doctors to the country to provide assistance after Hurricane Matthew.

Mr. Castro’s Cuba was a founding member of the ALBA, pioneered by the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez Frias, and which in English translates to the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.

Social Justice Icon

Today it hurts us if a Cuban is hungry, if a Cuban has no doctor, if a Cuban child suffers or is uneducated, or if a family has no housing. It hurts us even though it’s not our brother, our son or our father. Why shouldn’t we feel hurt if we see an Angolan child go hungry, suffer, be killed or massacred?” — President Fidel Castro, March 30, 1977

Despite his well-off social status, being a law graduate from the University of Havana and the son of a Spanish-born sugar planter, Mr. Castro fought for social justice for the Cuban people and drew inspiration from  the late Jose Marti “Apostle of Cuban Independence”.

Comrade Castro, along with eighty other revolutionaries including another iconic figure, Argentine-born Ernesto “Che” Guevara, set sail from Mexico on November 25, 1959 aboard a yacht called the Granma with the aim to liberate Cuba from President Batista. Under Batista’s rule Cuba had been a hedonistic enclave for wealthy Americans and US multi-national companies, while income inequality in Cuba widened and the Cuban economy stagnated.

During his presidency, Mr Castro proposed reforms to return sovereignty to the Cuban people, including land reforms, agrarian reforms and economic diversification. He  started a literacy campaign and introduced free universal education and health care for each Cuban citizen. By controversially expropriating foreign owned lands, he sought to end US domination of the Cuban economy and retake Cuba for Cubans. Criticism is made of the poverty under which many of Cuba’s 11 million residents still live but little mention is made of the role the US’ illegal trade, financial and economic embargo has played in retarding Cuba’s economic progress.

Moreover, very little is generally said in western media about the social strides Cuba has made despite the embargo. For example, Cuba has the lowest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the Caribbean, and one of the lowest in the world. Its  literacy rate of 99.8% is one of the highest in the world, while its low infant and maternal mortality rates were praised by the UN Population Fund in 2012. Even in the face of the US embargo, Cuba has pioneered medical research as noted in this Huffington post article, and has willingly shared its medical, education and scientific expertise with other developing countries. Cuba has also distinguished itself in the area of sport.

In the early years, Cuba sought to export its revolution to the world with Soviet help. Castro’s right hand man, Che Guevara, was murdered in Bolivia in 1967 while trying to promote revolution in that South American country. In more recent years, Cuba has shifted to soft power, exporting its highly-trained doctors and other health care professionals to countries in need of humanitarian aid. His offers of assistance were not limited to allies and developing countries. Notably, in 2005 then President Fidel Castro offered to send 1,600 Cuban doctors, field hospitals and medical supplies to the US after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, a gesture which Washington refused.


Mr. Castro also fought against racism and oppression. When western governments unapologetically supported the racist apartheid government in South Africa, Mr. Castro’s Cuba instead supported anti-apartheid movements in that African country, a fact which Jacob Zuma, current South African president reiterated in his statement on Mr. Castro’s death:

“[Fidel Castro] inspired the Cuban people to join us in our own struggle against apartheid. The Cuban people, under the leadership and command of President Castro, joined us in our struggle against apartheid”. – Jacob Zuma

Anti-Imperialist & Anti-colonialist Hero 

Cuba is not opposed to finding a solution to its historical differences with the United States, but no one should expect Cuba to change its position or yield in its principles. Cuba is and will continue to be socialist. Cuba is and will continue to be a friend of the Soviet Union and of all the socialist states.” President Fidel Castro, December 20, 1980

For anti-imperialists, the “David and Goliath” analogy is no more blatant than in a small island state like Cuba openly defying and provoking the ire of the United States, the most powerful country in the world. Located just 90 miles off the Florida coast, Cuba went from being “America’s whorehouse” to becoming Washington’s public enemy number one because of its embrace of Communism and of the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. As a result, successive US governments have since the 1960s punished Cuba with an illegal economic, trade and financial embargo, which despite the detente started by now outgoing US President Obama in 2014, remains in effect.

While weaker men would have bowed to western pressure, Mr. Castro’s  defiant fight against western imperialism was not limited to Cuba. Cuba provided soldiers, military training and moral support for revolutionary movements in Latin America, and anti-colonial, independence movements throughout Africa, including most notably Angola.

Recalling Cuba’s assistance to the people of South Africa and of other African countries, then South African President Nelson Mandela is reported to have said on his  1991 visit to Cuba as follows:

The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom, and justice unparalleled for its principled and selfless character, President Nelson Mandela

In global politics, Castro’s Cuba also played a leading role, including being a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and later assuming the presidency of that organisation from 1979-1983 and again from 2006-2009.

Global Reaction to his passing

Mr. Castro was a polarising figure in both life and death. Predictably, US President-elect Donald Trump in a statement released following news of Mr. Castro’s death noted that “Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.” Aside from the nausea-inducing rejoicing by US media, politicians and Cuban-Americans at the news of Mr Castro’s passing, the heart-felt reactions of many of the world’s leaders are testimony to the friend and Great man which many regarded him to be:

Irwin LaRocque (Secretary General of the Caribbean Community – CARICOM) – “The passing of Fidel Castro marks the end of a life dedicated to fighting for the dignity of all people which ensures his place in history.”

Enrique Pena Nieto (President of Mexico) – “Fidel Castro fue un amigo de México, promotor de una relación bilateral basada en el respeto, el diálogo y la solidaridad” (A.N. Translated: Fidel Castro was a friend of Mexico, promoter of a bilateral relationship based on respect, dialogue and solidarity.)

Narendra Modi (Prime Minister of India) – “Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend.”

Xi Jinping (President of the People’s Republic of China) -“the Chinese people have lost a close comrade and a sincere friend.”

Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada) – “Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.”

Outgoing US President Obama’s carefuly worded statement was not marked by effusive praise of Mr. Castro, possibly not to offend the Cuban Americans, but it avoided the inflammatory tone of the President-elect’s. Mr. Obama did, however, make note of the warming of relations between the US and Cuba under his watch and stated that  “the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

His Legacy will live on

“Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.” — Fidel Castro while on trial on October 16, 1953

A thorn in Washington’s side, Mr. Castro has survived over 600 assassination attempts, as well as the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. He was not perfect (No leader is!). He jailed dissenters, for example, and publicly accepted responsibility for the persecution of LGBT persons during the 1960s and 70s. But despite his faults, he was far from the inhumane despot the West portrayed him to be and is generally beloved by the Cuban people. Moreover, western countries’ support of brutal and repressive regimes in the name of preserving their geopolitical and economic interests while demonising Fidel Castro smacks of nothing less than hypocrisy at the highest level.

Comrade Castro’s contribution to the anti-imperialist movement is immeasurable. His strength of conviction in the face of opposition by the world’s most powerful nations was without comparison. He was a freedom fighter and revolutionary hero who was quick to lend humanitarian support and expertise to other countries and provide global leadership against imperialism, racism, fascism, foreign aggression and oppression.

Whatever his faults, his heart was in the right place. His failings were outweighed by his achievements. For us in the Caribbean, Castro’s Cuba will always be a symbol of anti-imperialist strength. His friendship to the Caribbean region and to other nations of the Global South will always be remembered. His death leaves an unfillable void, but his legacy is indelible. I express my empathy and solidarity with the Cuban people as they endure these days (and years) of mourning.

Que descanses en paz, camarada Fidel (Rest in peace, Comrade Fidel).

Alicia Nicholls is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

US eases some restrictions on Cuban imports for personal use

Alicia Nicholls

On October 14, 2016 the United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced further amendments to the Cuba Sanctions Regulations. These changes became effective today (October 17, 2016) and include not just an ease on restrictions of Cuban imports, including alcohol and cigars, for personal use, but also facilitation of joint Cuba-US medical research and a variety of other trade measures.

Since the early 1960s, successive US governments have imposed an illegal economic, commercial and financial embargo on Cuba which is not only contrary to international law but has hindered the country’s economy development. In December 2014 US President Barack Obama outlined a new direction to normalise Cuba-US relations. Efforts at normalisation since 2014 have included, inter alia, the removal of Cuba from the US State Sponsors of Terrorism List in May 2015, the re-opening of embassies in July 2015 and the progressive relaxation of some sanctions.

However, US congressional action is needed to reverse the embargo. The embargo has been widely condemned by the international community. On October 26th, the UN General Assembly will be called on for the 25th consecutive year to vote on a Cuba-introduced resolution calling for an end to the five-decade long embargo.

Current Amendments to Cuba Sanctions Programme 

The current tranche of amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) cover the following three broad areas:

  • Expanding opportunities for scientific collaboration and access to medical innovations
  • Facilitate increased humanitarian support, grant opportunities and improve Cuban infrastructure
  • Bolster trade and commercial activities and the growth of Cuba’s private sector

Some of the specific amendments are as follows:

  • Authorisation of joint-medical research with Cuban nationals for non-commercial and commercial research
  • Importation , marketing, sale and distribution in the US of FDA-approved Cuba-origin pharmaceuticals
  • Persons who engage in those above activities will be allowed to open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba for use in conducting authorised business
  • Authorisation of grants, scholarships and awards to Cuba or Cuban nationals for scientific research and religious activities
  • Authorisation of persons subject to US jurisdiction to provide services to Cuba or Cuban nationals relating to developing, repairing, maintaining and enhancing certain Cuban infrastructure to directly benefit the Cuban people
  • Removal of monetary value limitations on what authorised travelers may import from Cuba into the US as accompanied luggage. These include Cuban alcohol and cigars. However, the imports must be for personal use and normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply.
  • BIS will generally authorise exports of certain consumer goods that are sold online or through other means directly to eligible individuals in Cuba for their personal use
  • Expanded general license by OFAC authorising persons subject to US jurisdiction to enter into certain contingent contracts for transactions currently prohibited by the embargo, subject to conditions.
  • OFAC authorisation of importation into the US or a third country of items previously exported or re-exported to Cuba under a BIS or OFAC authorisation

Comprehensive information on all of the amendments may be obtained via the US Treasury Department’s website here.

 Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

US President Obama lands in Cuba; US hotel to open in Cuba

Alicia Nicholls

According to a CNN news report, United States President Barack Obama landed in Cuba on Sunday. President Obama’s three-day visit to Cuba marks the first time in more than eighty years that a sitting US president has stepped foot on Cuban soil. The US president, who is accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, was greeted upon arrival by top Cuban officials.

In related news US hotel chain Starwood has reached an agreement to open the first US hotel in Cuba since the embargo. According to this BBC report, Starwood will renovate and operate three hotels in Havana.


President Obama’s visit is the latest in a series of steps taken by his administration since December 2014 towards normalising relations between the US and Cuba. These steps have involved the progressive removal of some travel and trade restrictions and include:

  • Allowing individual travel by US citizens to Cuba for educational “people to people” purposes, although a general travel ban remains in effect
  • Approval of a ferry service between the US and Cuba
  • Allowing US bank accounts for Cuban nationals
  • Re-opening of US embassy in Havana
  • Lifting of restrictions on export financing
  • Agreement to resume commercial air links between the US and Cuba. Several US airlines have already signed up.

A full list of the restrictions eased are available in a press release issued by the US Treasury and Commerce Departments.

However, despite the President’s calls for congress to lift the decades-old embargo, it remains.

More will be posted as the story develops.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Cuba and North Korea Sign Trade and Technology Agreements

Alicia Nicholls

Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) have added two additional protocols to a growing list of cooperation deals between the two countries.

Prensa Latina reports that two protocols, one on trade and the other on science and technological development, were signed by the Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca and North Korean Ambassador to Cuba, Pak Chang Yul at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment in Havana, Cuba this week.

The trade protocol is an interesting one as it will be based on bartering, that is, payment for goods and services via other goods and services, as opposed to cash. The exchange of goods is expected to help Cuba obtain inputs for its sugar industry and railway system.

Cuba and North Korea have enjoyed strong relations since 1960 (the height of the Cold War) and both countries are subject to heavy US economic sanctions. According to Diario de Cuba, Cuba and North Korea already have cooperation agreements in a number of sectors, including education, oil, agriculture and trade.



For further information, please see the full news report from Prensa Latina (In Spanish).

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. The Author is not affiliated with the World Bank, the Caribbean Association of Banks or any bank. You can read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

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