Planned U.S.-Cuba business conference generates interest, and a few questions.Up to 300 executives of U.S. agribusiness, pharmaceutical and lumber companies--as well as state agriculture officials and various members of Congress--are expected to shell out $1,500 or more apiece to attend the U.S.-Cuba Business Conference next month.
Kirby Jones is president of both Alamar Associates and the Washington-based U.S.-Cuba Trade Association, which is organizing the Feb. 17-19 event. He said it includes two days of plenary and private meetings in Cancun, Mexico, followed by a third "fully hosted" day in Havana.
"Our focus will be on helping U.S. businessmen understand what's involved in doing business in Cuba," Jones told CubaNews. "It's a how-to conference, oriented to what issues need to be addressed and with whom these executives will need to work. Cuban officials themselves will be there to sit down and talk with them."
Event sponsors include Caterpillar Americas, Patton Boggs LLP LLP - Lower Layer Protocol , Alamar Associates, Americans for Humanitarian Trade With Cuba, the Port of Galveston The Port of Galveston is the port of the city of Galveston, Texas. It was established by a proclamation issued by the Congress of Mexico on October 17, 1825, while the land known today as Texas was still part of Mexico. , the GIC GIC
See: Guaranteed Investment Contract
See guaranteed investment contract (GIC). Group and the agriculture departments of five states: Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Texas and Virginia.
Pedro Alvarez Pedro Alvarez is a common name in the Spanish and Portuguese languages. It can be appropriately spelled with or without the accent over the first "A," and with either a "z" or an "s" at the end. , president of Cuban food import agency Alimport, will reportedly head a 30-member delegation of senior Cuban commerce officials to the conference.
Sen. Maria Cantwell Maria E. Cantwell (born October 13, 1958) is the junior United States Senator from the state of Washington and is a member of the Democratic Party. Previously she served in Washington House of Representatives and one term as member of the United States House of Representatives (D-WA) has confirmed her participation in the meeting, and will likely be leading a delegation of Washington business executives to Cuba. Other lawmakers who were invited but haven't yet confirmed include Sen. Byron Dorgan Byron Leslie Dorgan (born May 14 1942) is the junior United States Senator from North Dakota. He is a member of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, the North Dakota affiliate of the Democratic Party. (D-ND) and Reps. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO); George Nethercutt George R. Nethercutt, Jr. (born October 7, 1944) is an American politician. He was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 2005, representing Washington's At-large congressional district. (R-WA) and Jeff Flake Jeffry "Jeff" Flake (born December 31, 1962), an American politician, has been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since 2001, representing Arizona's At-large congressional district. (R-AZ).
However, not everyone is thrilled with Kirby Jones and his upcoming conference.
John Kavulich, president of the older and more established U.S.-Cuba Trade & Economic Council, has warned his corporate members to exercise caution before jumping on a plane to Cancun and Havana.
"Serious questions must be raised when principals of a not-for-profit organization are seeking to capitalize on Cap´i`tal`ize on`
v. t. 1. To turn (an opportunity) to one's advantage; to take advantage of (a situation); to profit from; as, to capitalize on an opponent's mistakes s>. tax-exempt status for personal gain," Kavulich told CubaNews.
A recent two-page advisory published in Kavulich's newsletter, Economic Eye on Cuba, claims "the organizers are marketing the conference as seeking to include members of Congress. Thus, the conference has a proactive political component, which seems unnecessary and perhaps detrimental to maintaining a commercial focus."
KAVULICH'S `POINTS OF CONCERN'
Kavulich lists five "points of concern" with relation to the February event, among them "the belated disclosure in October 2002 by the organizers that in August 2002, the Office of Foreign Assets Control The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is an agency of the United States Department of the Treasury under the auspices of the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U. (OFAC OFAC Office of Foreign Assets Control (US Treasury)
OFAC Ontario Farm Animal Council (Canada)
OFAC Olmsted Falls Airport Committee
OFAC Organic Fertilizer Association of California ) of the U.S. Treasury U.S. Treasury
Created in 1798, the United States Department of the Treasury is the government (Cabinet) department responsible for issuing all Treasury bonds, notes and bills. Some of the government branches operating under the U.S. Treasury umbrella include the IRS, U.S. Department had denied authorization by the organizers to use a license issued by OFAC to a not-for-profit organization identified as a sponsor of the conference."
Kavulich also complains that a Washington law firm--presumed to be Patton Boggs, though he doesn't identify it by name--"permitted a letter dated Jun. 26, 2002, certifying that the conference was in compliance with OFAC regulations, to remain in use for marketing purposes through Oct. 29, when a new letter was published. The belated disclosure of material changes to the conference should be viewed as issues of veracity veracity (vras´itē),
Yet Jones says he's done nothing wrong.
"We were originally going to have it all in Havana. But Treasury ruled that we couldn't do that, so we published a new brochure and explained it very openly," he said. "There was no secret. We tell people the U.S. government reinterprented the license. There's nothing illegal about what we're doing."
In fact, a colorful, 8-page brochure advertising the meeting does explain the change of plans, and even warns would-be participants that "as this is a fully hosted day in Havana, please note that no items may be purchased when in Cuba." It says that OFAC's Cuban Asset Control Regulations, 31 CFR CFR
See: Cost and Freight Section 515.420, specifically prohibit fully hosted participants from spending U.S. dollars in Cuba.
Jones said the Cuban host committee includes Havana consulting firm Noun 1. consulting firm - a firm of experts providing professional advice to an organization for a fee
business firm, firm, house - the members of a business organization that owns or operates one or more establishments; "he worked for a CONAS CONAS Combined Nuclear And Steam , the Center for Investment Promotion (CPI (1) (Characters Per Inch) The measurement of the density of characters per inch on tape or paper. A printer's CPI button switches character pitch.
(2) (Counts Per I ) and CIMEX, the island's biggest holding firm and operators of most of Cuba's food outlets.
"There's nothing illegal about what we're doing," he insists. "OFAC specifically allows for fully hosted travel to Cuba. It is legal to do that, and that's why we're doing it that way."
Daniel Waltz is an attorney with Patton Boggs, which provides legal counsel to the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association. He insists that his client's activities are kosher.
"OFAC's Cuba regulations are clear in stating that persons subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. will not be considered to violate the regulations if a person not subject to jurisdiction of the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. covers the cost of all travel-related transactions in Cuba," he explained. "That's the way this one-day stop in Cuba is being organized. A Cuban host committee will cover those costs. Travel by participants in the conference will be lawful."
ORGANIZER BUILDS ON MOMENTUM
The February conference is the third such gathering between U.S. business executives and Cuban officials. The first was the U.S.-Cuba Business Conference in Cancun a year ago, also organized by Jones. The second was the U.S. Food & Agribusiness Exhibition, held Sept. 26-30 in Havana; that event was organized by Peter W. Nathan of PWN In gaming, to trounce an opponent. To be "pwned" is to be defeated unmercifully. Pronounced "pone," "pwen," "pawn" or "pun," the derivation of the term is obscure. Some believe it came from a common typo of "own" because the o and p keys are next to each other. Exhibicon, with considerable help from Kavulich.
At that meeting, Cuba signed over $85 million in business contracts and secured letters of intent for another $28 million in sales.
Joseph Green, a Miami-based executive of Caterpillar, says his company's sponsorship of the February event is in line with its longstanding opposition to the U.S. embargo.
"Unilateral trade sanctions Trade sanctions are trade penalties imposed by one or more countries on one or more other countries. Typically the sanctions take the form of import tariffs (duties), licensing schemes or other administrative hurdles. are not effective, and we're hoping to bring about a change," Green told CubaNews. "We understand what the law is today, and we certainly wouldn't do anything to jeopardize Caterpillar's position. But the fact is that a number of our competitors around the world, including Komatsu and Volvo, are all selling new machines to Cuba."
The $1,500 registration fee, which rises to $2,000 after Jan. 15, doesn't include lodging at the official conference venue, the Westin Regina Resort in Cancun ($135 a night). Nor does it include $390 that participants must pay for round-trip airfare between Cancun and Havana. Conference officials say they'll charter a Mexican rather than a Cuban airline in order to avoid violating OFAC rules.
It's unclear how much the one-day jaunt to Havana is costing their Cuban hosts, but Jones says it won't exactly enrich the Castro government. "We're arriving in the morning. we have buses, a lunch, a meeting hall, a dinner and that's it. If we were going for a week, that's one thing. But this is less than 12 hours. We're talking about very little money here."
Even if it's all legal and above-board, Kavulich still says American executives who attend the Cancun meeting are probably wasting their time and money.
"Generally, there is no reason for a U.S. company seeking to market to Cuba products authorized by the Bureau of Industry and Security The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce which deals with issues involving national security and high technology. (of the U.S. Commerce Department) to visit Cuba on a fully hosted basis, as licenses are available from OFAC," he said.
Attorney Waltz he's puzzled why Kavulich is so upset about his client's event.
"It's striking to me that an organization whose focus is advising U.S. businesses with respect to Cuba would be so eager to criticize others who seek to perform the same service," he said. "I know that Kavulich issued a similar advisory last year recommending that his members not attend the conference in Cancun. To my knowledge, all the participants in that conference were delighted with the substance of what they learned."
RELATED ARTICLE: Economist plans Cuba `roundtable' in October.
The Economist Conferences has scheduled a "Roundtable with the Government of Cuba" to take place in Havana next October.
The meeting will likely attract 100 to 120 directors, CEOs, CFOs, managing directors, general managers and other senior decisionmakers. Organizers say the event "will allow existing and potential direct investors to have access to insights into the prospects of doing business in Cuba."
The Roundtable will feature government ministers responsible for shaping economic policies, giving attendees the opportunity to gain an immediate understanding of direct investment opportunities in Cuba.
Topics covered during the conference--likely to be held at a five-star hotel in Old Havana--will include general prospects for foreign investment; impact of the U.S. embargo on foreign trade and investment; precautions for avoiding U.S. sanctions; Cuba's relations with the European Union European Union (EU), name given since the ratification (Nov., 1993) of the Treaty of European Union, or Maastricht Treaty, to the
European Community , and integration with the rest of the Caribbean.
"With increasing food sales to Cuba and huge lobbying efforts in Washington to lift aspects of the embargo, the time is fast approaching when it becomes possible to speak of a post-embargo Cuba," said Dr. Stephen Wilkinson Notable people named Stephen Wilkinson include:
Case studies are to analyze specific opportunities in tourism, energy, transportation and telecommunications.
All discussions and debates will be held in an "off-the-record" atmosphere which encourages participants to share forwardlooking perspectives and make new business contacts.
Wilkinson said the itinerary will also likely include visits to various factories and state-owned companies; a guided tour guided tour guide n → visite guidée;
what time does the guided tour start? → la visite guidée commence à quelle heure? of Old Havana, the port area and a free zone; parallel meetings with officials, and a closing reception hosted by conference sponsors.
The last "Roundtable with the Cuban Government" took place in February 1999 at Havana's Hotel Melia Cohiba, and attracted multinationals from over a dozen countries including the U.S., Canada, Spain, Mexico, Venezuela, France and Great Britain.
The cost for attending the Roundtable will likely be set in February, said Wilkinson.
Details: Heidi Lawrence, Economist Conferences, 15 Regent St., London SW1Y 4LR. Tel: +44 207 830-1020. Fax: +44 207 931-0228. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.