Today’s Announcement on U.S.-Cuban Commercial Relations

President Barack Obama has just made a significant announcement pertaining to normalizing relations with Cuba. His comments come on the heels of the release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who spent five years in prison in Cuba, and the three remaining Cuban prisoners held in the United States who were a part of the group of prisoners labeled the Cuban Five. All prisoners were held on espionage charges in the countries in which they were imprisoned.

Here is a brief synopsis of the announcement and analysis of what these changes will mean for U.S.-Cuban trade.

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“It has had little effect….These 50 years have shown isolation has not worked,” President Obama said in today’s address. Here are some of the points that I noted as they pertain to the exchange of goods and services between the United States and Cuba:

  • Re-establish diplomatic relations, which will include setting up a U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba
  • Lift restrictions on travel, commerce and the flow of information

The second point entails the following:

  • “Remittance levels will be raised from $500 to $2,000 per quarter for general donative remittances to Cuban nationals (except to certain officials of the government or the Communist party); and donative remittances for humanitarian projects, support for the Cuban people, and support for the development of private businesses in Cuba will no longer require a specific licenses. Remittance forwarders will no longer require a specific license.”
  • “The expansion will seek to empower the nascent Cuban private sector.  Items that will be authorized for export include certain building materials for private residential construction, goods for use by private sector Cuban entrepreneurs, and agricultural equipment for small farmers.  This change will make it easier for Cuban citizens to have access to certain lower-priced goods to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state.”
  • “Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined.”
  • “U.S. institutions will be permitted to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions to facilitate the processing of authorized transactions.”
  • “The regulatory definition of the statutory term “cash in advance” will be revised to specify that it means “cash before transfer of title”; this will provide more efficient financing of authorized trade with Cuba.”
  • “U.S. credit and debit cards will be permitted for use by travelers to Cuba.”

The U.S.-Cuba embargo remains and a ban on travel to the Caribbean island for tourism purposes is still in place. Nevertheless, this administration is taking steps to ease the tensions between the United States and Cuba and facilitate trade in additional goods and services that may be beneficial to both sides.

I was fortunate enough to benefit from earlier reforms and travel to Cuba in the summer of 2012 to study its political and economic reforms. Please see my earlier analyses of U.S.-Cuba policy and U.S.-Cuba trade (click here). Today’s announcement further advances the earlier policy reforms that allow for trade between the United States and Cuba even with the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

What are your thoughts on President Obama’s speech?

If anyone has an analysis of Cuban President Raul Castro’s speech, which was made at the same time as that of President Obama, please contact me at 

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Holidays around the World: Take your product or service to the international marketplace

As a business owner, you are probably implementing a strategy to increase your revenue this holiday season. Have you thought about selling your goods or services to the overseas market this holiday season and reaching a far greater number of consumers?

The Global Research Institute of International Trade (GRIIT) is co-sponsoring a seminar to help your business take advantage of both the holiday season and the markets that exist overseas.

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Date: Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Time: 2:00-5:00 p.m.

Location: LA Law Library 301 W. 1st Street Los Angeles CA 90012

To register: Click here

This seminar is designed for business owners who want to export but just do not know where to start. Business owners will be introduced to the combined market opportunities worth about $7 trillion throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as the resources needed to enter those markets.

Class covers:

  • Free trade agreements
  • How to transport your goods overseas
  • Export financing

At the end of the seminar, you will be able to:

  • Name the laws that provide opportunities for U.S. businesses in specific overseas markets
  • Identify the right market(s) for your specific product or service
  • Name three common modes of overseas transportation
  • Meet international trade specialists in the areas of market research, transportation of goods and export financing

Presented by:

Sarita D. Jackson PhD PhotoSarita D. Jackson, Ph.D. is the founder, president and CEO of the Global Research Institute of International Trade (GRIIT), a think-tank/consulting firm. She conducts market competitive analyses for clients and helps organizations develop international trade programs. She also teaches Fundamentals of International Trade at UCLA Extension. Dr. Jackson has published numerous scholarly articles both nationally and internationally and is currently drafting a book on international trade competitiveness in the 21st century. Dr. Jackson serves on the Board of Directors of Women in International Trade-Los Angeles (WIT-LA) and is a member of the National Association of Small Business International Trade Executives (NASBITE).

She earned a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and Spanish at the University of Southern California and a Master’s and Doctorate in political science at Brown University.

OIT Photos-PellsonPellson Lau joined the U.S. Small Business Administration - Office of International Trade in 2011 as the Regional Manager of the Export Solutions Group. He currently covers Southern California and the State of Arizona from his office at the U.S. Export Assistance Center – Los Angeles (USEAC). Prior to the SBA, he amassed over 25 years’ experience in the banking industry, specializing in international trade operations, commercial lending, credit review and administration, and various government loan guarantee programs through the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. and the SBA.

Pellson holds a banking diploma from ifs School of Finance, United Kingdom, a certificate inpersonal financial planning from the University of California, Los Angeles and a MBA from the University of Southern California. He is an enrolled agent licensed by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Pellson is also a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP).


Lynda WilsonLynda Wilson-Bey is President and CEO of South Los Angeles Logistics, FPC, a 3PL company that integrates and manages all logistics services of a complex supply chain. The Company’s mission is to facilitate the exchange of goods and service between Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the U.S. through trade and investment. Her extensive experience with detailed coordination of complex operations involving many people, facilities and suppliers began 35 years ago as a Legal Secretary. The knowledge involved in learning to navigate federal, state and local court jurisdictions while also having to manage the flow of documentation from origin to disposition, has given her the foundation, skills and expertise to lead her company into the 21st Century global economy. Today, she uses that same knowledge as a business planning frame-work for the management of materials, service, information and capital flows. She serves as Director of Global Logistics Education for Africa-USA Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Registration Fee: 

$25 for the class (nonrefundable, payment reserves spot)
Parking options available during on-line registration.

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Dr. Jackson to Speak at USC Today

saritagreenI look forward to participating in a panel discussion on leadership and entrepreneurship.

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“Let’s Talk Leadership: Young Entrepreneurs Making Waves in the Workforce” will take place this evening from 6-9 p.m. at USC. It is a free event. You can learn more and RSVP at I hope to see you there.


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The Midterm Elections and Trade Promotion Authority

There are 15 states in which the U.S. Senate races are being watched closely. Recent news reports are predicting that the Republican party, which already is the majority in the House, will become the majority in the Senate. (See Who Will Win the Senate? and Math is forbidding for Democrats in struggle for Senate)

So what impact will the outcome have on Obama’s trade agenda, specifically in terms of gaining trade promotion authority (TPA)?

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Based on the current information and past voting records, the majority of the incumbent senators in these races actually voted against granting President Obama trade promotion authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and other free trade agreements such as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (T-TIP).

Trade promotion authority gives U.S. Congress the authority to establish guidelines that the Executive branch must follow as it pursues free trade agreements. However, members of Congress can only vote up or down on free trade agreements without any amendments to those agreements. The most recent bill put forward was early this year. (See Five Things You Need to Know About Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority)

The voting results for trade promotion authority in 2011 for many in the current Senate races show the following:

  • The majority of the incumbents voted against the trade promotion authority with 9-3.
  • Most of the Democratic incumbents voted against the trade promotion authority with 9 against and 1 in favor.
  • The two Republican incumbents voted in favor of trade promotion authority.
  • Out of the three open seat races, the one Republican senator who is stepping down voted in favor, whereas the two Democratic senators who are not running for another term voted against.

Senate Candidates
Trade Promotion/Fast track Authority
Alaska Mark Begich (D) NoRepublican
ArkansasMark Pryor (D) YesRepublican
ColoradoMark Udall (D) No Republican
GeorgiaDavid Perdue (R) (open seat in which current polls showing Perdue leading with 46%) Saxby Chambliss (R) - YesToss Up
Iowa Joni Ernst (R) (open seat with recent polls showing Ernst leading with 48%) Tom Harkin (D) - NoRepublican
KansasPat Roberts (R)YesToss Up
KentuckyMitch McConnell (R)YesRepublican
LouisanaMary Landrieu (D) NoToss Up
MichiganCarl Levin (D)NoDemocratic
MinnesotaAl Franken (D) NoDemocratic
New HamphsireJeanne Shaheen (D)No Democratic
North Carolina Kay Hagan (D)NoDemocratic
OregonJeff Merkeley (D)NoDemocratic
South Dakota Mike Rounds (R) (open seat with recent polls showing Rounds leading with 45%) Tim Johnson (D) - No Republican
VirginiaMark Warner (D)NoDemocratic


*Note: The names listed in the Trade Promotion Authority column are of the current U.S. Senators who are not running again. Nevertheless, their votes on TPA are listed.

Most of the opposition among the group of U.S. Senators in these competitive races comes from within the Democratic party. Perhaps, if the Republicans take over the U.S., President Obama may finally win trade promotion authority. We will watch today’s results closely.


 ITE would like to thank Mr. Kevin Jackson for the extensive research for this blog post. Any errors are solely those of the author. 

Feel free to add updates in the comments section as the results unfold. 


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Our Health and Free Trade: Tobacco and TPP

As we near the end of 2014, it looks as if we will conclude yet another year without having finalized the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations. Nevertheless, the negotiations are still moving along slowly. Negotiators are scheduled to meet this month. One top issue pertains to tobacco.

This is a case in which international trade and public health clash. How would you balance: 1) measures designed to protect citizens’ health, 2) the interest in expanding business opportunities to other markets and 3) the need to enforce global trade rules, i.e., not violate World Trade Organization trade rules?

Cigarette Butt hin255

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The next round of TPP negotiations between 12 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region are scheduled for October 25th in Sydney, Australia. According to, the United States does not plan on putting forth a new tobacco proposal although its August 2013 proposal sparked a backlash.

The most recent U.S. tobacco proposal includes the following:

• The TPP agreement will, like other trade agreements, contain a general exception for matters necessary to protect human life or health. We will propose including a provision indicating that the TPP Parties understand that general exception applies to tobacco health measures.

• We will also propose adding a provision requiring that before a Party initiates a challenge through TPP dispute settlement to another Party’s tobacco regulatory measure, the health authorities of the concerned Parties shall meet to discuss the measure. These two elements work together to preserve the right to regulate tobacco products domestically.

• Finally, the market access element of the proposal will remain unchanged, consistent with long-standing trade and agriculture policy. As we do for other products, we will continue to press for the elimination of tariffs on U.S. agriculture exports, which, by their very nature, discriminate against American farmers.

Here are some issues that have arisen during the discussions surrounding including tobacco in the TPP negotiations:

  • Whether or not tobacco regulations should be exempt altogether from trade rules so that regulations put in place to protect public health are not labeled as non-tariff barriers to trade or a form of protectionism, both of which violate the rules established under the WTO (Malaysia, one of the TPP countries, continues to push for a complete exemption for tobacco from the TPP as it seeks to enact World Health Organization measures on tobacco control.) 
  • The concern that countries will use strict tobacco policies and regulations for the purpose of discriminating against and restricting the entry of foreign tobacco products to protect domestic tobacco producers instead of public health
  • The degree to which last year’s proposal by the United States will result in the ability of tobacco companies to use trade rules to challenge another country’s tobacco policies and regulations designed to protect public health

Since scientific studies have shown the harmful effects of tobacco, it is difficult to argue, in this case, that the need to protect human health are exaggerated and outright false. Many countries, including the United States, have taken serious domestic measures to limit the sale of tobacco, regulate advertising and encourage transparency about the health risks associated with the use of tobacco. Therefore, it is not just a question of tobacco control measures designed to protect domestic producers from foreign competition, as we may see in some cases in other industries. Rather, there is a human health component that must be taken into account even within the free trade framework.

What do you think?


**Photo courtesty of hin255/ 


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