US commerce secretary visits Cuba

Havana, Oct 7 (IANS) US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker began her two-day visit to Cuba with a tour to the country’s first special economic zone of Mariel.

The port of Mariel is expected to become a major Caribbean shipping and industrial hub when completed, Xinhua reported.

Pritzker and her delegation, including officials from the US departments of treasury, commerce and state, arrived on Tuesday, and met Maria de la Luz B’Hamel, Head of North American Affairs under Cuba’s ministry of foreign trade and investment.

On Wednesday, Pritzker is scheduled to chair a meeting between her delegations and representatives of various Cuban ministries and companies, to address the scope and limitations of the measures adopted by US President Barack Obama since January this year to ease certain restrictions against Cuba.

Obama’s measures made it easier for citizens and companies from both the countries to travel and do business in each other’s country, but the trade embargo Washington imposed on Cuba in the early 1960s remains in place, hampering the island’s trade, economy and finances.

The ban on Cubans using the US dollar for overseas transactions, for example, is one of the main obstacles Pritzker is expected to tackle during this trip.

She is also set to meet Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Vice President of the Council of Ministers Ricardo Cabrisas.

In August, US Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to Havana to attend a flag-raising ceremony at the newly-reopened US embassy in Cuba.

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