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Bright days ahead - Renewed US-Cuba ties good for Jamaica, say stakeholders

Published:Friday | December 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

The forging of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba is set to create new frontiers and strengthen old ones in areas of tourism, education, health, science and technology as well as trade.

Although warily eyeing developments in Washington and Havana, Winston Davis, a former Jamaican ambassador to Cuba, told The Gleaner yesterday that increased travel should pave the way for a novel approach to tourism arrangements.

Professor Errol Morrison, a scientist by profession, has predicted that involving the US in existing partnerships with Cuba will trigger new ways of doing business to produce positive results in science and technology.

"Three heads are better than two," quipped Morrison. "I feel excited about the possibilities to tell you the truth."

For a start, Davis suggested that easing travel restrictions appears to be inevitable. He said an increased number of Jamaicans are feeling more relaxed travelling to Cuba.

"There are many who feel that we act only if the US approves what we do, so I expect that the ban on travel will be one of the first things that will be lifted or eased," he said.

This, Davis said, could pave the way for the establishment of a triangular tourism trade involving the United States/Canada, Cuba and Jamaica.

"There will be far more people who are interested in visiting the country," asserted Davis. "For several years, persons who visited Cuba, liked what they saw and would like to visit again."

Studying in Cuba

Davis said parents and guardians of students studying in Cuba, are likely to visit the country with expectations that air transportation between Jamaica and Cuba is likely to improve.

"So I think there will be more people who want to go, and I think the facilities for visiting Cuba will improve," said Davis.

With the idea of a triangular tourist trade surfacing in the past, Davis said any easing of the travel ban could open the way for such an arrangement.

He said Canadians visit Cuba each year through regular flights from Toronto and Montreal.

"You could have Canadians who fly to Cuba and then to Jamaica as part of a triangular arrangement," he suggested.

"Those tourists might want to come to Jamaica for two or three days. So they could fly from Canada to Cuba to Jamaica and back home," he said. "In the same way, you may have American tourists who come to Jamaica and would like to go and see Cuba."

Increased trade

In terms of increased trade between Jamaica and Cuba, he had opted to adopt a wait-and-see approach, but anticipates promising outcomes.

"I am not sure I know to what extent that will increase, as the economic and trade blockade against Cuba was not just a matter that affected direct trade between the US and that country."

Davis noted that US associated companies in other parts of the world could not trade with Cuba if any of the component materials originated in the US or a US company was the parent company.

"Trade with a number of companies in Europe and South East Asia was adversely affected," he said.

Morrison noted that Cuba has been progressing rapidly in scientific endeavours such as research, the biotechnology as well as innovations in the pharmaceutical arena.

"If we could bring the North American component into that mix, it would certainly enhance what we could obtain from the relationship," said Morrison.

"It could intensify our research into these areas as we could be using some of our natural products in that mix to help to establish our own industry," he added.

"I just feel that bringing the US relationship with Cuba into the regional mix will further enhance the possibilities, including financing, human resource and, from that stance, it really opens up an exciting collaboration opportunity."