12.17.15

A Look Back at the First Year of the U.S.-Cuba Relationship December 17, 2014 - Present

Key Actions and Accomplishments

December 17, 2014: President Obama moves to normalize relations with Cuba.

  • Decision follows 18 months of secret negotiations between U.S. and Cuba and the release of American aid contractor Alan Gross.
  • Announcement of plans over the coming months to ease travel and financial restrictions on Cuba.
  • Paves the way for U.S.-Cuba to restore diplomatic ties, reopen embassies, and potentially lift the embargo.

January 16, 2015: Departments of Commerce and Treasury announce regulatory changes to Cuba sanctions.

  • The amendments implement the changes President Obama announced on December 17, 2014.

March 31, 2015: U.S. and Cuba hold first formal talks on human rights.

April 8, 2015: A public opinion poll of Cubans on the island is released; shows that an overwhelming majority of Cubans support an end to the embargo.

  • Nearly all Cubans (97 percent of those polled) believe normalization of the relationship between Cuba and the United States is good for Cuba.

April 11, 2015: Presidents Obama and Castro meet at the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

  • Marks the first time the two nations' top leaders have sat down for substantive talks in more than 50 years. Both presidents agree it is time to end the embargo.
  • The inclusion of Cuba in the Summit of the Americas comes after Latin American countries pressured the United States to allow Cuba to participate.

April 20, 2015: Governor Andrew Cuomo leads delegation to Cuba.

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo leads a delegation of New York business owners and politicians to Havana.
  • His visit marks the first time a U.S. governor has travelled to the island since the U.S. and Cuba normalized relations.
  • The trip includes officials from JetBlue Airways, the Plattsburgh International Airport, Pfizer, MasterCard, and the founder of Chobani.
  • The trip leads to an agreement between Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology and Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York to import a lung cancer vaccine and begin clinical trials in the United States.

May 4, 2015: New Cuba PAC launches.

  • New Cuba PAC pledges to donate to political candidates who support favorable policy toward ending the Cuban embargo.

May 29, 2015: United States removes Cuba from state terror sponsors list.

  • President Obama informs Congress of his decision in mid-April; Congress has a 45-day review period.
  • Some congressional Republicans oppose the move; however, they do not make any effort to block the decision.
  • Cuba had been on the list since 1982. Being listed subjects a country to U.S. restrictions on such things as foreign aid and defense sales.

June 18, 2015: Cuba expands Wi-Fi access across the island.

  • 35 Wi-Fi hotspots are created.
  • Previously, Wi-Fi was only available at tourist hotels at hourly prices that would amount to nearly a quarter of the average monthly salary for Cubans.

July 2015: United States restores diplomatic ties with Cuba.

  • On July 1, President Obama announces that the U.S. and Cuba would reopen their embassies nearly 55 years since they first closed.
  • On July 20, diplomatic relations are officially re-established; Cuban embassy holds flag-raising ceremony in Washington. Engage Cuba hosts private dinner between Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez-Parrilla and American business leaders.
  • On July 22, Engage Cuba hosts a briefing at the White House for the Cuban-American community about U.S.-Cuba relations.

July 23, 2015: Senate Appropriations Committee approves three amendments favorable to lifting sanctions on Cuba.

  • The amendments would end restrictions on travel to Cuba, allow private financing for agricultural sales to Cuba, and lift restrictions on ships docking at Cuban ports.

August 14, 2015: Secretary of State John Kerry presides over the flag-raising ceremony at American embassy in Havana.

  • Sec. Kerry’s visit marks the first time in 70 years that a U.S. Secretary of State has visited Cuba.

August 2015 – October 2015: American airline companies announce new flights to Cuba

  • American Airlines and Cuba Travel Services announce a new charter service providing nonstop service from Los Angeles to Havana. American Airlines also begins offering a once-weekly flight from Miami to Havana in partnership with Cuban travel services.
  • JetBlue announces the addition of a second charter flight from JFK to Havana
  • Delta establishes charter flights from Atlanta to Havana, set to start April 2, 2016.

September 8, 2015: Leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump comes out in support of diplomatic reengagement with Cuba.

  • Trump’s stance means that for the first time in over a half-century, the leading presidential candidates from both parties support normalization; Hillary Clinton had stated her support a year prior.

September 18, 2015: Obama administration further eases travel and business restrictions against Cuba.

  • The announcement expands telecommunication opportunities in Cuba and allows certain American businesses to establish offices and bank accounts on the island.
  • Cuban businesses and residents are now able to set up offices and bank accounts in the United States.
  • However, significant barriers to open trade and travel still exist with Congress’ refusal to lift the embargo.

September 19, 2015: Pope Francis arrives in Cuba.

  • The Pope visits Cuba before coming to the United States. During his visit, he lauds the normalization process between the two countries.

September 2015 – November 2015: Telecommunications contracts begin to be signed on the island.

  • Verizon begins to offer voice and data roaming in Cuba through a third party.
  • Sprint signs an interconnection agreement with Cuba's state telecoms monopoly Etecsa.

September 28, 2015: Governor Asa Hutchinson leads Arkansas delegation to Cuba.

  • Governor Asa Hutchinson asks Congress to lift restrictions that prevent U.S. food companies from selling to Cuba on credit.
  • The measure, led by Senator John Boozman (R-AR), was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in July but has yet to receive a floor vote in the Senate and House.
  • In 2000, the U.S. authorized cash-only agricultural exports to Cuba, which brought $30 million in sales to Arkansas annually. Since Cuba prefers to buy on credit, sales have fallen.

September 29, 2015: Presidents Obama and Castro meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

  • For the first time in more than 60 years, a U.S. president meets with a Cuban president on U.S. soil.

October 6, 2015: Secretary of Commerce Pritzker makes official trip to Cuba.

  • Sec. Penny Pritzker becomes the second U.S. cabinet official to visit the island since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.
  • Sec. Pritzker meets with the country's ministers of foreign affairs and foreign investment.
  • Sec. Pritzker tours Mariel, the site of a $1 billion investment to create a major shipping hub in Cuba.

October 14, 2015: Nine state governors sign onto bipartisan letter supporting end to Cuban embargo.

  • The governors of Alabama, California, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington write letter to Congressional leadership highlighting the harm that the embargo has done to American agriculture exports.

October 25, 2015: North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring leads North Dakota agriculture delegation to Cuba.

  • North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring leads a delegation of representatives from commodity, agricultural, and commerce organizations to the island.
  • Full list of participants: North Dakota Department of Agriculture; Bank of North Dakota; Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.; Great Northern Ag; Northarvest Bean Growers Association; North Dakota Grain Growers Association; North Dakota Mill & Elevator; North Dakota Trade Office; North Dakota Wheat Commission; and Red River Farm Network.

November 2, 2015: Cuba hosts annual international trade fair.

  • It is estimated that 50 U.S. companies attend the fair, more than ever before.
  • Cuba signs first-ever roaming agreement with U.S. telecom company Sprint Corp.

November 17, 2015: Engage Cuba partners with the Atlantic Council to release a poll from America’s “Heartland” voters profiling their opinions on Cuba.

  • The poll’s findings show bipartisan support in “Heartland” states – Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee – for restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, lifting the travel ban and ending the embargo.

November 18, 2015: U.S. and Cuba sign historic environmental pact.

  • The agreement marks the first accord between the two countries since the announcement that they would be normalizing diplomatic relations.
  • The accord will protect nearby fish and marine life living off the coasts of both countries and allow U.S. and Cuban scientists to collaborate on research.
  • Cuba’s marine ecosystem is considered one of the best preserved and most diverse in the world.

November 19, 2015: Debit cards become available for use in Cuba.

  • MasterCard and Stonegate Bank (based in Ft. Lauderdale) announce that their cards are now active for use in hotels, restaurants and other stores in Cuba.
  • They become the first financial institutions to take advantage of new business openings with Cuba.
  • Americans travelling to Cuba will be able to use these cards at 10,000 merchants that accept the cards.
  • ATM transactions will be available in 2016.

November 29, 2015: Governor Greg Abbott leads Texas delegation to Cuba.

  • Governor Greg Abbott leads a delegation of Texas agriculture and port officials and local businesses to Cuba.
  • While in Cuba, the delegation meets with the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, the Port of Mariel, the Chamber of Commerce and two Cuban entities, Alimport and Cimex.
  • Texas-Cuba trade relations have decreased over the years due to restrictions and regulations. If full trade were allowed, Texas could see an economic impact of $43 billion.

December 7, 2015: Engage Cuba launches Tennessee State Council.

  • The 16-person council includes representatives from a range of industries, including agriculture, academia, manufacturing, business, and the arts.

December 8, 2015: U.S. and Cuba hold the first round of discussions on mutual property claims.

  • The two governments begin negotiations over U.S. individuals’ and companies’ properties that were seized after the 1959 revolution; Cuba also presents counterclaims of economic damages stemming from the embargo.

 

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