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Way cleared for trading between TT and Cuba

Caricom/Cuba Bill passed
Way cleared for trading between TT and Cuba

BY Ria Taitt

Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday yesterday asked in Parliament if any TT businesses would be punished by the United States for trading or having dealings with Cuba under the Caricom/Cuba Bill.

The US is TT's largest investor.

The Caricom/Cuba bill which was passed in the House of Representatives yesterday sets up the institutional framework for increased trade in goods and services between Caricom countries and Cuba.

But Panday noted that there has been an economic blockade by the US since 1962. The embargo he said, had "extraterritorial effect". For example, he told the House, the blockade prevented ships from a third country which sail to and from Cuba, from docking in the US within six months (of going to Cuba).

The "iron-clad blockade" contained other provisions which he said, could have a detrimental effect. He cited the stipulation that third countries are forbidden from exporting any product to the US which contained raw materials from Cuba. Third countries, he added, were also prohibited from selling goods or services to Cuba which use US technology, or US products in its manufacture, Panday said.

US companies which operated or had subsidiaries in third countries also faced a range of prohibitions in terms of investing, dealing with companies, banks etc which had interests or trade with Cuba.

Panday noted that US President George Bush, had as late as August 2004 reaffirmed the need to continue the blockade.

What is going to happen to our businesses? Do they know the consequences of trading with Cuba? Panday asked.

However Trade Minister Ken Valley quoted statistics to show that there had been a growing trade between Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago since 2000, which was heavily in this country's favour.

Valley said in 2001 Trinidad and Tobago imports from Cuba were valued at TT$529,000 while exports to Cuba were valued at $81 million. In 2002 imports from Cuba were $1.3 million while exports to Cuba were $78 million; in 2003, imports- $1.8 million; exports $81.6 million; 2004, imports $12.1 million; exports- $109.8 million.

Valley stated that between January to August of this year Trinidad and Tobago imported $556,600 worth of goods from Cuba, while it exported $83 million worth of goods.

Valley stated that he could not understand why Panday, who was Prime Minister when the start of negotiations for the Caricom/Cuba treaty began, should now be raising the issue of the affect on TT businesses.

He said the US embargo affected US citizens and US investors therefore they could not invest in Cuba. But, Valley stated, those who were not affected by the embargo could take advantage of the opportunities provided under the legislation.

Valley also slammed UNC Political Leader Winston Dookeran, saying that Dookeran's call for transparency and accountability in foreign affairs, was tantamount to saying "Do as I say, and not as I do".

He said Dookeran was pontificating about things to which he (Dookeran) and the government he supported, never adhered.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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