Sun | Feb 26, 2017

Jamaican gov't calms fears of fallout locally from US, Cuba rekindling ties

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 2:03 PM
AP Photo: This December 17, 2014 file photo shows a classic American car driving past the U.S. Interests Section buidling in Havana, Cuba - File

The Jamaican Government is seeking to allay fears of a fallout among local businesses, especially those in the tourism sector, with the restoration of diplomatic and economic relations between the United States and Cuba.



State minister with portfolio responsibility for Foreign Trade and the Diaspora, Arnaldo Brown, says new rules implemented by the United States last Friday as a first-step to normalise economic and diplomatic relations with Cuba could do more good for Jamaica's tourism product rather than damage it.



The junior minister was speaking at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Trafalgar New Heights at the CRU Bar and Kitchen on the eve of the implementation of the new rules by the US.



Noting that the 50-year embargo against Cuba was still in place, the minister said improved Cuba/US relations may present an opportunity for Jamaica and Cuba to collaborate on marketing their tourism products, noting that Jamaica is often a gateway for persons visiting the Spanish-speaking island.



He adds that normalised ties between US and Cuba could open doors for tourism investors and other businesses in Jamaica, particularly those who had investments in Cuba and were forced to shut them down.



But Richard Byles, president and CEO of Sagicor, whose conglomerate owns and operates Jewels Resorts, has been quoted as saying that the move by the US should be watched closely by Jamaica. However, Byles, who is also chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), which is scrutinising the Government's programme with the International Monetary Fund, says the pace of the normalisation is likely to be slow and should give the country time to develop a strategy for twinning the tourism products of the islands.



Brown says the Government stands willing to facilitate businesses and entrepreneurs who may want to invest in Cuba.



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