© Stocksak. FILEPHOTO: A group of people walks under a Cuban flag in a Havana area, Cuba, on August 3, 2021. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
HAVANA (Stocksak) – A few dozen U.S. entrepreneurs braved tough U.S. sanctions and Cuba’s worst economic crisis in decades to attend a conference in Havana on Wednesday focusing on the new private sector and aimed at boosting flagging engagement between the Cold War-era foes.
The Cuban Chamber of Commerce, Washington-based consultancy FocusCuba and the host of the gathering said the three-day event was the most recent such forum since at minimum 2018, when former U.S. president Donald Trump added new sanctions to an already decades-old trade embargo.
Both the Cuban as well as the U.S. delegations criticized some of the sanctions – which are mostly still in place – and called upon President Joseph Biden, Democrat U.S., to end the Republican policies of his predecessor.
Antonio Luis Carricarte of Cuban Chamber of Commerce called the gathering at the Hotel Nacional “historic” and praised both the attendance of representatives from Florida and Cuba.
Hundreds of U.S. businesses visited the Communist-run island nation to look for opportunities after a brief thaw in relations between Obama and Obama.
Some, from cruise company to Western Union (NYSE:) Starwood Hotels and Co signed groundbreaking agreements, but new U.S. sanctions forced them to renege. Others continue to do business.
Cubans were granted permission to operate close to 5,500 small and medium-sized businesses in the past year. This is the first license Cubans have received since Fidel Castro’s 1959 Revolution. This opens up new opportunities for partnerships between foreign investors.
Hugo, a Cuban American who owns Fuego Enterprises Inc in Miami said that almost everything he does is done with the new booming privat sector. Hugo’s online food market processes 4,000 orders per hour in Cuba.
Cancio, who attended the conference, stated that it was important for American businesses to see this for themselves.
At the event, entrepreneurs from the United States represented a variety industries including online shopping, digital currency transfers, shipping, finance, and food services.
“I think participants are seeking clarity in terms of what is possible with investment on the Cuban side in this new private sector, though any agreements must also be approved by U.S. regulators,” said Phil Peters, founder of FocusCuba told Stocksak. “We need more clarity there also.”
The White House did in fact not immediately respond to a request.
The Biden administration has relaxed some restrictions on Cuba regarding remittances and tourism, as well as migration. It expressed interest in supporting Cuba’s private sector.