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Commerce secretary and US entrepreneurs to accompany Obama to Cuba
Published on March 16, 2016 Email To Friend    Print Version

HAVANA, Cuba (ACN) -- US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will travel to Cuba with business persons from her country, as part of the delegation accompanying President Barack Obama during his visit to the island on March 20-22.

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. State Department photo by William Ng
A communiqué issued by the US Commerce Department confirmed that Pritzker will come to Cuba with a group of entrepreneurs, like Arne Sorenson, executive president of the Marriott International hotel chain, and Ursula Burns, executive president of Xerox.

Also part of the delegation will be executives of telecommunications giant AT&T and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, which are interested in learning, in situ, more about business opportunities on the island, the press release said.

Pritzker, who will make her second trip to Cuba in fewer than six months, in October toured the Mariel Special Development Zone, and held meetings with trade officials in Cuba and discussions with Cuban producers.

After the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States in July and the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington, the commerce secretary was the second member of the Obama cabinet to visit the island in decades.

During that stay, Pritzker and Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuban minister of foreign trade and investment, inaugurated the regulatory dialogue between the two countries, which continued in February in the US capital in search for mechanisms to facilitate the implementation of the new policies of the United States towards Cuba in the commercial area, weighed down heavily by the laws codifying the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.

"It is clear that our business persons want to do business with Cuba, we have been in touch with them and that interest is very high," said Pritzker recently, praising the Cuban market as an opportunity, although she did not recognize the embargo as the main obstacle.

For their part, AT&T and the hotel giants Marriott International and Starwood Hotels are getting ready to sign agreements to do business in Cuba, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

"We are optimistic about the fact that we will have the green light by the US government to install the Marriott brand hotels in Cuba," said Thomas Marder, spokesman for the hotel group, which recently acquired the Starwood hotel chain.

In order to set up on the island, the US business groups have to apply for licences to the US Department of the Treasury under the embargo laws.

Obama's visit will be the first by a serving president in almost 90 years and is part of the path taken by both countries towards the normalization of relations.
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