More than thirty organizations and agencies have joined forces to form the U.S.- Cuba Trade Association, a new group organized in response to the U.S. government ruling, contrary to congressional intent, that U.S. firms had to receive money in advance from Cuba before shipping. The group will work to protect current trade with Cuba, expand and increase the potential for future business, and promote the full normalization of commercial relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
As one of its first activities, the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association hosted a meeting Wednesday so that members could hear directly from Pedro Alvarez, chairman of Alimport, the Cuban entity which signs all contracts with U.S. firms. Via two-way teleconference, Alvarez spoke to the group from his office in Havana, informing them that Cuba has had to purchase $300 million of foodstuffs from non-U.S. firms because of what he called the "uncertainty of supply and financial losses" caused by the new U.S. regulations.
Alimport has imported $179.4 million in U.S. food products this year, which USCTA says is on par with imports of recent years. Traders, however, say the Cuba business is not growing this year. Alvarez told USCTA members that Cuba will honor the contracts it has signed and hopes to continue to expand U.S. purchases.
"Regaining market share in countries that have been sanctioned by the U.S. is tough. Having new obstacles placed in our way by the U.S. government makes it even tougher," says U.S. Wheat Associates President Alan Tracy. "By joining with others who have the same trade policy objectives as USW, we hope to bring critical mass to changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba."
Other charter members of the newly formed association include ADM, Caterpillar, Cargill, National Foreign Trade Council, USA*Engage, USA Rice Federation, North Dakota Farm Bureau, Port of Galveston, Louisiana Department of Economic Development, AgBioTech, Buffalo Int'l., Arthur Savage & Sons, Port Manatee Commercial Center, and the Virginia Department of Agriculture.
The Board of Directors is headed by Bill Reinsch, former Under Secretary of Commerce and current President of the National Foreign Trade Council. The Association's Board of Advisors, chaired by William D. Rogers, former Assistant Secretary of State and a vice chairman of Kissinger Associates, includes David Rockefeller; Carla Hills, former U.S. Trade Representative; Frank Carlucci, former Secretary of Defense; and A.W. Clausen, former CEO of Bank America and president of the World Bank, among others.
"We have formed this association because of the desire of our members not only to keep trade with Cuba running smoothly," says Kirby Jones, USCTA President and long-term advisor to U.S. firms interested in Cuba, "but also to move forward to expand trade and travel opportunities with Cuba."
For more information visit www.uscuba.org.