Havana, Oct 26 (EFE).- At least 27 US businesspeople, five Cuban-Americans and representatives of Cuban companies on Wednesday began exchanging ideas and experiences at the first bilateral trade forum held since 2016.
The president of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, Antonio Carricarte, at the inauguration of the forum called on the attendees to “take advantage of the gaps in the (US embargo) to evaluate how to increase the presence of US businessmen in this phase of Cuban development.”
Carricarte called the presence of US businesspeople a “courageous gesture,” with the group including representatives of the Focus Cuba consulting group for doing business on the communist island, Phil Peters and Paul Johnson.
US government representatives are not participating in the conclave.
Carricarte said that US exports to Cuba are “modest” and amounted to $370 million last year, mainly food items.
He called Americans “proactive, creative and entrepreneurial businessmen who instead of seeing obstacles, see opportunities to do business,” adding that his wish is for the forum to allow a fluid exchange of ideas and new ways of doing business.
The forum will run until Friday with panel discussions and a business roundtable focusing on agroindustrial activities, trade and technology. Also scheduled for the participants is a visit to Cuban scientific institutions, but international media will be given access only to the inaugural ceremony.
Peters acknowledged that Cuba has acted in a “significant” way, above all in terms of the participation of private actors in the economy, referring to the island’s 2021 reform permitting small and medium businesses to operate, something that had been banned since 1968.
This is something new and interesting, the US businessman said, going on to criticize US President Joe Biden for delaying on making moves to bring the US and Cuba closer.
The current forum is an example of the intensification of bilateral relations over the past year, although links have not approached the level of the so-called “thaw” begun by former President Barack Obama but put into the deep freeze by his successor – and Biden’s predecessor – Donald Trump.
The 2016 business forum was held during then-President Obama’s visit to Cuba as part of his rapprochement with then-Cuban leader Raul Castro.