September was a busy month for U.S. and Cuban bilateral relations. Two key meetings took place, advancing a number of issues being discussed between the two countries.
First, on September 12, the U.S. and Cuba held its Inaugural Economic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. to discuss long-term bilateral engagement on a variety of topics ranging from trade and investment, labor and employment, energy, small business, intellectual property rights, economic policy, regulatory and banking matters, and telecommunications and internet access.
Then, on September 30, the two countries held their Fourth Bilateral Commission, also in Washington. During the meeting, the U.S. and Cuba reviewed progress made since the last Bilateral Commission meeting in May 2016 on a number of shared priorities including public health, counter-narcotics, and the resumption of scheduled commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba.
Also in September President Obama announced his nomination of Jeffrey DeLaurentis to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Cuba. DeLaurentis is a career foreign service officer who has served as chief of mission for the U.S. in Havana for the last two years. Although appointing an Ambassador to Cuba appears to be the next logical step in the Obama’s Administration changes in U.S.-Cuba relations, detractors have criticized the nomination, arguing it will lack the necessary support for confirmation in the Senate. Beyond Congress, on the campaign trail, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump announced in Miami that he would reverse President Obama’s changes if Cuba did not provide more religious and political freedom.
Meanwhile, Cuba is taking advantage of the momentum created by U.S. companies’ interest in the island to reinforce economic and business relations with existing partners in Europe and Asia. For example, the Cuban Company for the Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources and Respect for the Environment (CUBASOLAR) and the Spanish Union of Photovoltaic Energy (UNEF) signed a framework agreement to cooperate on environmental matters. Cuba expects to see the installation of 700 MW of new electric power by 2030 with the help of Spanish companies. Cuba and China have also strengthened diplomatic relations with the visit to Cuba of the Chinese Prime Minister at the end of September and the conclusion of 12 cooperation agreements among the two nations.