The “US-Cuba Relations 2017: New Challenges, New Opportunities” event took place the day before the Cuba Oil and Gas Summit in Havana. Invitees, most of whom were also attending the Summit, had the opportunity to meet with Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, and Michael Maisel, Director of External Affairs of the Washington, DC coalition group Engage Cuba.
Thirty-six U.S. executives from small business to multinational corporations from the health care, law, engineering, transportation sectors took part in the event organized by The Chevalier Law Firm.
Attendees were given the opportunity to explore the implications of the recent U.S. election, current diplomatic relations, legislative efforts to lift the travel and trade embargo, and opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Cuba.
The New Challenges, New Opportunities event included a visit to the Ambassador’s residence in the diplomatic neighborhood of Miramar. The Chargé d’Affaires, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, gave a brief history of US-Cuba relations which was followed by a targeted question and answer session for the participating executives.
Felix Chevalier, a partner at The Chevalier Law Firm who recently participated in the three day trade mission/delegation with the city of Houston to Havana, hosted the New Challenges, New Opportunities as a part of continuing efforts to introduce businesses to the Cuban market.
In speaking of the event, Mr. Chevalier described it as, “ …a great opportunity to engage with the diplomatic community in Cuba post-election and reinforce the business communities commitment to supporting all efforts to end the embargo. It was also an opportunity for company representatives to get direct answers to their pressing questions and to voice their appreciation for the years of work Ambassador DeLaurentis has done on behalf of U.S. interests.”
Michael Maisel, the Director of External Affairs of Engage Cuba also spoke to the group, presenting a legislative brief on the status of the embargo. He gave an update on recent legislative measures. Mr. Maisel said there were now two new members of the U.S. Senate and eight to 10 from the House of Representatives who are now pro-Cuba trade.
Maisel explained that, “U.S. companies broadly recognize the vast business opportunities in Cuba. However, the embargo continues to put American companies at a huge competitive disadvantage in emerging Cuban markets. The U.S. business community has been crucial to our efforts to build support across the country, and in Congress, for ending 55 years of failed policy.”
One attendee, Roberto Garcia, president of Truck Nation, a corporation which buys and sells commercial sized trucks said that he found the New Challenges, New Opportunities event provided further clarity on the process of investment with Cuba. “After the advance briefing, I had a better understanding of what the requirements involve. The briefing was very helpful to allow me to better understand and plan for the Oil and Gas Summit.”
Mr. Garcia sees it as a hopeful sign these types of meeting continue and hoped the “progress with Cuba and the United States continues and develops into a mutual beneficiary relationship.”
The event at the Ambassador’s residence was followed by dinner at the San Cristobel Paladar, the restaurant most famous for hosting former President Barack Obama and his family.