Last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker helped lay the foundation for a new chapter of relations between the United States and Cuba after 50 years of broken commercial and diplomatic ties. On October 6-7, Secretary Pritzker became the second U.S. cabinet official to travel to Cuba since President Obama called for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations.
In December 2014, President Obama took historic action to chart a new course for our country’s relationship with Cuba through a policy of engagement rather than isolation. While the embargo toward Cuba remains in place, the Obama Administration has revised a number of regulations that govern our relationship with the Cuban government and the Cuban people. The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has had a major role to play in these policy changes, and has completed three major amendments to its regulations regarding exports and
re-exports to the island. These actions have authorized the flow of certain goods and services to Cuba without a license, in an effort to spur private sector activity and encourage entrepreneurship.
During her visit, Secretary Pritzker helped to launch a new Regulatory Dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba focused on the impact of our new regulations, as well as the regulatory changes that have been made by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC). The Dialogue also gave Secretary Pritzker and additional U.S. officials from the Departments of Commerce, State, and Treasury the opportunity to hear from their Cuban counterparts on the structure and status of the Cuban economy.
By helping each other to better understand our different systems, Secretary Pritzker, her delegation, and Cuban officials began to build a working relationship that will create opportunities for the people of both Cuba and the United States. Last week was the first in a series of meetings in which our countries could begin to build trust and lay the groundwork for constructive engagement between the Cuban and American people now and into the future
In addition to meeting with government officials, Secretary Pritzker used her visit to learn more about how the Cuban economy works, including the nongovernmental sector, and explore avenues of future cooperation between our governments and our people. As part of the economic fact-finding component of the mission, Secretary Pritzker visited the Mariel Special Development Zone with U.S. Ambassador to Cuba Jeffrey DeLaurentis. Secretary Pritzker learned about Cuba’s vision of the role that the Port of Mariel will play in their economy. She also toured Old Havana.