Executives see little progress on easing Cuba-U.S. financial services
By Dan Freed | NEW YORK
Multinational financial companies met on Friday with U.S. and Cuban
officials to discuss making financial transactions between the two
countries easier but reported no concrete signs of progress.
Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Central
Bank of Cuba First Vice President Irma Martinez Castrillon said global
financial institutions are afraid of facing U.S. sanctions for allowing
money to move through Cuba. She said the financial sector has lagged
other industries in embracing the thawing of relations between the
United States and Cuba.
"In terms of policy and diplomacy, there has been great progress but in
the financial sector there is a great deal of fear," she said.
The luncheon, which was open to the press, followed a private "workshop"
where the U.S. executives asked questions of U.S. and Cuban officials.
Representatives from General Electric Co (GE.N), Credit Suisse Group AG
(CSGN.S), Western Union Co (WU.N) and Visa Inc (V.N) were among the
roughly 100 people in attendance at the luncheon.
"We frankly still see hesitance on the part of U.S. international banks"
in processing financial transactions, said Mark Feierstein, a senior
White House official who spoke at the lunch. Martinez Castrillon said
there were more companies in attendance at Friday's workshop than a
similar one held recently in Cuba.
U.S. President Barack Obama loosened financial services restrictions
with Cuba earlier this year, shortly before his historic visit to the
island. But banks have been slow on the uptake, burned by past sanctions
for breaking the embargo.
In October 2015, for example, U.S. regulators slapped Credit Agricole
with a $787 million fine for violating sanctions against several
countries including Cuba.
Only one bank, Stonegate, (SGBK.O) has so far issued U.S. credit cards
that can be used in Cuba, so most American travelers bring wads of cash
when they visit. Companies complain they cannot get credit to do
business with Cuba.
Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who has been leading
efforts by the Chamber of Commerce to promote U.S.-Cuban business
relations, cited "clarification" and "relationship-building," as
Friday's major accomplishments.
(Reporting by Dan Freed in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Source: Executives see little progress on easing Cuba-U.S. financial
services | Reuters -