Latin America & Caribbean

US Commerce Secretary Pritzker in Cuba for embargo talks

Penny Pritzker, 13 July 2015, Washington DC Image copyright AFP
Image caption Penny Pritzker will meet Cuban entrepreneurs during her visit to the island

The United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has arrived in Cuba for two days of talks focusing on the US embargo on the communist-run island.

Ms Pritzker will discuss recent measures approved by the US to mitigate the impact of the embargo.

Since the US and Cuba announced last year they were restoring relations, President Barack Obama has pushed for the restrictions to be scrapped.

But he faces opposition from the Republican majority in the US Congress.

Ms Pritzker is the most senior American official to visit Cuba since Secretary of State John Kerry reopened the embassy in Havana in July.

Shortly after landing in Havana, she visited the Special Enterprise Zone, an area developed near the Mariel port to encourage foreign investment.

On Wednesday, she is due to meet the Cuban trade and foreign ministers for discussions on the embargo.

'Slow pace of change'

The US announced in recent weeks a number of measures to encourage trade even with the embargo still in place.

American companies will no longer be breaking US law for setting up premises in Cuba, the US authorities announced.

But the Cuban government needs to lift some of its own bureaucratic and legal obstacles for the measures to work, says the BBC's Will Grant in Havana.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Cuban government is hoping the port being constructed in the Bay of Mariel, near Havana, will attract much needed foreign investment
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Raul Castro and Barack Obama met during the United Nations General Assembly last week

There may be some reluctance from the Cuban authorities to allow a faster pace of change while there are other issues pending, such as new civil aviation rules, ferry services between Florida and Cuba and greater internet access.

President Barack Obama met Cuban leader Raul Castro on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last week.

Mr Castro told the UN that normal relations would only be possible if the US abolished its trade embargo.

The first American economic sanctions against Cuba were imposed in 1960.

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