NAFTA & Inter-American Trade Monitor
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
May 31, 1996
Volume 3, Number 11
U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher defended more stringent U.S. laws banning trade with Cuba during a May 7 visit to Mexico, and tried to reassure Mexican businesses that new sanctions would be prospective only and would not be applied to businesses and business owners who had invested in Cuba prior to the enactment of the Helms-Burton legislation this year. The European Union has asked for World Trade Organization consultations on the Helms Burton bill, which has also been denounced by other U.S. allies.
One provision of the Helms-Burton legislation allows U.S. nationals to bring federal suits against anyone who "traffics" in property confiscated from US citizens after Cuba's 1959 revolution and another provision says the secretary of state "shall exclude" from the United States anyone subject to such a claim, including corporate officers, shareholders with controlling interests, and their immediate families. Among 200 companies already identified by the U.S. government as "trafficking" in confiscated properties through joint ventures with Cuba are Mexico's giant Cemex cement company and Canada's Sheritt mining company.
Cuban officials say the pace of foreign investment has slowed since last year. Some observers blame Cuba for slowness in opening to foreign capital.
Canada's ambassador to Cuba, Mark Entwhistle, believes Helms- Burton plays a significant role. "No foreign investor interested in Cuba can afford to ignore the famous or infamous Helms-Burton law and in the case of Canada, it has clearly already had a significant chilling effect on investment decisions," Entwhistle told a foreign investment workshop in Havana.
Guy de Jonquie'res, "U.S. Accuses Allies Over Cuba," FINANCIAL TIMES, May 21, 1996; Pascal Fletcher, "Cuba Still Shy of Investment," FINANCIAL TIMES, May 22, 1996; "Helms-Burton Act: No Disneyland for Queen Elizabeth?" WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE ON THE AMERICAS, May 26, 1996; Bruce Clark and Nancy Dunne, "Cuba Sanctions Threaten to Sour US-EU Relations," FINANCIAL TIMES, May 24, 1996.