3 Major US Companies Finalize Business Deals with Cuba as Obama's Visit Looms
Three major U.S. companies are finalizing business deals with Cuba as President Barack Obama's visit to the country approaches.
AT&T, Starwood and Marriott are the companies working with Cuba to complete deals prior to Obama's state visit scheduled on March 20-22. The event will mark Obama as the first U.S. president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years, a sign of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
A source who was briefed by administration and company officials said that AT&T is attempting to finalize a mobile communications agreement with Cuba's state telecoms monopoly Etecsa. Starwood is also considering an announcement.
A source who has knowledge of AT&T's inner workings claimed that "there is no agreement in place" with Etecsa though discussions are being conducted, NBC News reported. Starwood said that it is seeking an authorization from the U.S. Treasury Department to operate hotels in Cuba.
"We see many opportunities for the expansion of our brands into Cuba at this inflection point, and look forward to building long-term relationships and welcoming travelers into our hotels in this dynamic market," Starwood said, as quoted by NBC News.
Marriott spokesman Thomas Marder said that the company is hopeful that the U.S. government will allow the firm to operate hotels in the communist nation.
Other business deals are also expected to coincide with Obama's visit. This includes the Major League Baseball, or MLB, which held discussions with the U.S. and Cuban governments to permit big-league teams to sign players from Cuba without chances of a defect.
Since embassies reopened in Havana and Washington, both sides have held discussions about increasing travel and business opportunities. In February, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, Cuba's minister of foreign trade and investment, promised Congress that American firms would not be discriminated against if they attempt to invest in the Cuban market.
Numerous U.S. companies are interested in entering the Cuban market, but the majority of them have remained apprehensive because of the half-century-old embargo. The firms are also worried that the Cuban government will fail to pass important economic reforms.
The embargo still prohibits general tourism and other kinds of business dealings. Meanwhile, U.S. airlines have been applying for routes to Cuba.
For his visit to Cuba, Obama will be joined by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 16 other House Democrats.
Republican Arizona Senator Jeff Flake will also attend the trip as well as Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Tom Udall of New Mexico. Additional House Republicans are also expected to accompany Obama.
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