Cuomo ends Cuba trip with some deals
Cuomo ends Cuba trip with some deals
Alan Gomez, USA Today 5:14 p.m. EDT April 21, 2015
HAVANA, CUBA– A trade delegation led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo left the
island on a high note Tuesday, announcing several agreements struck with
the Cubans and promising to return soon.
While he didn’t meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro during the 24-hour
trip, Cuomo huddled with Cuba’s first vice president Miguel Díaz-Canel
on Tuesday before departing. When asked if he raised Cuba’s human rights
record with the vice president, Cuomo said they spoke about the fact
that “disagreements” remain between the U.S. and Cuba, but did not
indicate whether he pressed Díaz-Canel on the government’s record.
“Those issues have to be worked through and what we have learned is the
best way to do that is through engagement as opposed (to) a policy of
isolation,” Cuomo said at José Martí International Airport.
Cuomo was accompanied on the trip by members of the state Legislature
and nearly a dozen business leaders, including from the Hudson Valley
and upstate, most of whom spent time with their counterparts on the island.
Charles Phillips, CEO of the Manhattan-based technology company Infor,
said those meetings led to a new deal to sell the company’s healthcare
software to a company in Cuba. Phillips said the Cuban company will also
help sell Infor’s software to Latin American countries and help train
students at a local university.
“We reached agreement at dinner last night over rice and beans,”
Phillips said. “We were surprised and impressed with the level of
technology and expertise they had in health care technology.”
The face-to-face meetings also helped finalize an agreement between the
Buffalo-based Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Cuban Center of
Molecular Immunology. Cuban researchers have developed a possible
vaccine for lung cancer, and Roswell Park’s CEO Candace Johnson said
they will now be able to work with the Cubans on that project.
“We’re very excited to take this to the U.S. to treat patients,” she said.
Most of the trip, however, was focused on establishing initial
connections with Cuban officials to set the table for future deals.
MasterCard vice chairman Walt Macnee said he had two meetings with
Cuba’s central bank to start laying the groundwork for their U.S.-issued
cards to be used in Cuba. When President Obama announced on Dec. 17 that
the U.S. would normalize relations with Cuba, he also said that he would
change federal rules to allow for credit and debit cards to be used on
MasterCard, based in Purchase, Westchester County, and American Express
have said they will allow their cards to be used in Cuba, but no U.S.
bank has agreed to process the transactions. One of the biggest
obstacles was Cuba’s inclusion on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List,
which restricted the ability of American banks and businesses to trade
with the island.
After a four-month review by the U.S. State Department, Obama announced
last week that he would remove Cuba from the list. Macnee said he
discussed that change with the Cuban bankers and left his meetings
confident that the cards will soon be used on the island.
“We feel really good about the conversations,” Macnee said. “Now we’re
going to work with each of the (U.S.) banks individually and make some
progress there. It’s still early days, but we’re on it.”
Cayuga Milk Ingredients CEO Kevin Ellis said he had similar experiences
meeting with the government companies that import food. Cuba imports 21
million pounds of powdered milk each year, and he feels the loosened
restrictions on trading with Cuba could open the door for his
Auburn-based company in the Finger Lakes to expand into that market.
He said the main concern from the Cubans was a federal rule that
requires Cuban companies to pay for any shipment in cash before the
product even leaves the U.S. Obama has indicated that he wants to change
that requirement, and Ellis said that change is necessary before Cubans
stop buying from other countries that grant them credit.
“If you put yourselves in the shoes of the Cuban buyers, if you are able
to get credit terms from Canada and not the U.S., you would rather do
business with,” them, he said. “Now we can start working towards
breaking down those barriers and establishing trade.”
Cuomo was the most forceful on the economic embargo that the U.S.
maintains on the Cuba.
During a Tuesday morning tour of the new Port of Mariel, a $900 million
project that Cubans hope will become the clearinghouse for larger
container ships that will cross through the expanded Panama Canal, he
heard just how underutilized the port remains because of the U.S. embargo.
If any foreign ship makes a port of call in a Cuban port, it is barred
from docking in the United States for 180 days. That’s why the port is
still operating at a third its capacity, Port Director Charles Baker
told Cuomo. The governor vowed to forcefully advocate for changes to
such rules, and left Cuba promising a prompt return.
“New York has always had a special connection with Cuba, and Cuba has
always had a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said.
“So it is not about starting a friendship. It is about rekindling that
friendship, and that is what we have done on this trip.”
Source: Cuomo ends Cuba trip with some deals –
Leave a Reply