Cuban diplomats from Washington visit Valley

Apr 02, 2015
In anticipation of renewed trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba, the Regional Chamber and Youngstown State University are hosting two Cuban diplomats this week.
In anticipation of renewed trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba, the Regional Chamber and Youngstown State University are hosting two Cuban diplomats this week.

Deputy Chief Juan Lamigueiro and First Secretary Sergio Vazquez of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., will tour two Valley companies and engage in trade discussions with local business representatives. Absent of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, both nations, through an exchange of diplomatic notes, established “Interests Sections” in each other’s countries under the legal protection of the Swiss Embassies in Washington and Havana.

“This event falls directly in line with our regional effort surrounding the OH-PA Stateline Export Initiative,” said Regional Chamber Vice President of Economic Development, North America Sarah Boyarko.

The OH-PA Stateline Export Initiative, the culmination of six months of planning spearheaded by YSU’s International Trade Assistance Center and the Regional Chamber, was launched earlier this year. The two organizations melded their international trade efforts and joined forces with economic development agencies in 10 northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania counties to create a worldwide trade strategy that turns the Valley into a more formidable economic engine.

“We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to partner with YSU, Attorney Luis Alcalde, and Dr. Milton Sanchez-Parodi to make this happen,” Boyarko added. “We foresee this being the first of many Cuba-related discussions and visits to expose our business community to exporting opportunities.”

Involved in the planning effort to bring the Cuban diplomats to the Valley were Alcalde, an attorney with Kegler Brown Hill and Ritter in Columbus, Sanchez-Parodi, president of Vista Trade Group in Poland, and Gabriel F. Palmer-Fernandez, director of the Dr. James Dale Ethics Center and professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at YSU.

"The visit to YSU by two members of the Cuban diplomatic corps is a splendid opportunity for our students, especially those in international business, to learn about developing markets and to explore the role of politics and legislation in international trade,” Palmer-Fernandez said.

President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are scheduled to meet next week at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. It would be the first scheduled meeting between leaders of the two countries in nearly 60 years. Obama announced in December that the U.S. will normalize relations with the Communist island.

“U.S.-Cuba commercial relations are very likely to open in the near future, and with that come new opportunities for Ohio manufacturers and farmers to enhance their markets,” Palmer-Fernandez said.

The main sectors that are now permitted to export to Cuba are telecommunications; environmental, renewable energy and energy efficiency; construction and building materials for private residences and small entrepreneurs; equipment and tools for small entrepreneurs; agriculture and food; and travel companies.

The diplomats’ activities in the Valley include a meeting with all of the OH-PA Stateline Export Initiative partners so they can learn how their communities can increase their exporting to Cuba. The diplomats will also tour Vinylume in Austintown and Summer Garden in Boardman. Vinylume is a three-generation manufacturer of vinyl windows, vinyl extrusions and insulated glass. Summer Garden has a 10-acre campus that includes food manufacturing, research and development, quality assurance labs, warehousing and distribution, and a culinary arts center.

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