Pressure by Cuba will not pay off

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This past week, United States relations with Cuba were back in the spotlight. The Trump administration announced new restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba. The rollback of Obama’s measures towards the island’s government is a promise President Trump had made some months ago. The steps are reasonable, since  Obama’s agreement with Cuba was insufficient  and inequitable. The U.S. gave much and received little in return.

It has been more than a year since the normalization of relations. Clearly, Cuba has been unwilling to change rapidly, and past treaties were insufficiently in achieving a new robust track. One example is the continued discriminatory practices against Americans in the island. On a recently booked trip I had to Cuba, for example, it turned out that hotel rates were unjustifiably much higher for Americans than for Europeans, so I cancelled my plans.

The intention of the hotel was to give a silent retaliation for the years of economic embargo. The focus was on individuals that had no say on the matter and also no ability to change or improve American relations with Havana.

In fact, with the new tight restrictions, American individuals can no longer visit Cuba and groups need a license from the Treasury Department to visit the country. The Cuban tourism industry will feel the effects of U.S. government encouragement of Americans to stay in private houses and avoid hotels and restaurants connected to or owned by the military and security services.

After decades of adverse relationships, isn’t it time to bury the hatchet and bring out the peace pipe. For that, Cuba needs to take a step back and accept new policies which are fair, non-discriminatory and welcoming to visitors, both American and Cuban alike. As a fair trade and commerce relationship is not yet a reality, the United States government needed to demonstrate a stronger position in order to encourage appropriateness.

In addition, it is important to note that seeking improved relations with Havana does not mean forgetting the violations against human and civil rights during the Castro government. The population’s welfare is equally relevant as economic aspects in diplomatic relations, and actions such as expropriations and unjustified prison sentences should still be remembered and repaired. Curative marketing evaluates, carries physical accosting, debt, and destruction until true restitution is made.

Much remains to be done by Cuba, particularly since the United States has already long ago initiated important steps to reflect its own atonement. Cuban pressure to repay for earlier inequities will not work. Only if both parties commit to a fair relationship, will we see commerce between the countries grow and bring benefits and economic growth.

Ambassador Jaeger and Christian Forstner at the First Year Seminar

As we are heading to the end of our Fall semester seminar, we have still three more guests to come and talk to students at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business. Yesterday, Nov. 15th, we had the pleasure to hear from two of these guests: Mr. Christian Forstner and Ambassador Kurt Jaeger.

Mr. Forstner is the Director of the Hanns Seidel Foundation’s Washington D.C. office, working with interested partners across the political spectrum to promote strong German-American ties. Part of his responsibilities is to facilitate high-level political dialog between German and American, covering topics such as international trade policy and transatlantic security and defense policy.

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Mr. Forstner first started working at the Hanns Seidel Foundation in 2000, as Director at Moscow’s office. He also served the EU Commission as a Team Leader for the Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) project.

Mr. Forstner has a master’s degree in Political Science, European History and Russian Literature from University of Munich and Moscow University of Foreign Languages, and developed several publications on EU affairs, security policy, and Russian and U.S. politics.
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Ambassador Kurt Jaeger was appointed to the United States in August of 2016. He has over 25 years of experience in international regulatory affairs,

Mr. Jaeger was Ambassador of Liechtenstein to the European Union (EU) and Belgium from 2010 to 2016. Previously, he worked at the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation for six years, being responsible for international air transport regulation and policy, and then became Executive Assistant to the Director General for Civil Aviation.

Before becoming Ambassador, Mr. Jaeger was also elected as one of three members of the Board of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Surveillance Authority in charge of monitoring and enforcing the application of EU law in the European Economic Area (EEA) by the three EFTA-States Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

Ambassador Jaeger has a degree from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, with a license en droit and with an LL.M. from McGill University, Montreal.

To know more about the First Year Seminar previous guests, please click here.

Visitors from Iceland

This week, we have very special visitors from Iceland here at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business. The group is headed by Dr. Svala Guðmundsdóttir, associate professor at the University of Iceland, and is formed by other faculty members from the University of Iceland, business executives and government officials. 

The idea of their visit is to promote good discussions, share new insights and have constructive dialogue about main current topics in business.  

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Five lectures are planned for the group, including my presentation about International Trade and Policy. Other subjects covered are Corrupt Practices Act by Prof. Thomas Cooke; Entrepreneurship by Prof. Alyssa Lovegrove; International Marketing by Prof. Charles Skuba; and Global Management by Prof. Jozsef Szamosfalvi.

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Pecan farmers pushing for fewer trade barriers

From wymt.com.

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) — The pecan farming business is booming. The industry is rapidly adding jobs in Georgia and billions of dollars to the economy in the South, but now this sector faces a stumbling block.

Pecan farmers are looking to send more of their product overseas. The Indian market looks promising, but U.S. farmers face high export costs. Now a bipartisan group of lawmakers is fighting to lower those rates.

Georgia pecan farmer Jeb Barrow has seen the pecan farming business change. He’s been a grower since 1974, and just in the past several years, he’s seen it go from a domestic market to an international one.

Now about a third of U.S. crops are shipped to China.

“That’s kind of a good news-bad news situation,” said Barrow.

“Anybody that reads the paper or looks at the news understands that some geopolitical event could occur tomorrow that could have that effect, so that’s kind of a sword Damocles if you will hanging over the industry’s head,” explained Barrow.

Ultimately, Barrow says it wouldn’t be wise for farmers to just rely on Chinese buyers. So, their interest turns to India, which has an exploding population and a diet rich in nuts.

“We have high hopes that the Indian market can – if we can get the tariff issue addressed – the Indian market can be developed and in time others as well, so everybody’s optimistic,” said Barrow.

The sticking point? U.S. tree nut farmers sending pistachios or almonds face, on average, a 10 percent tariff to ship products to India. That tariff, essentially a tax, is 36 percent for pecans.

“I think this is a huge opportunity for Georgia and the southeast. A lot of people down there have committed to pecans as a product for the future, and I think they’re right,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).

Georgia Senator David Perdue and eight of his colleagues recently signed a letter to the U.S. trade representative, urging officials to negotiate lower tariffs.

“We know to grow our economy, we need open and free markets around the world. That’s what this is all about,” said Perdue.

Trade expert and Georgetown Professor Michael Czinkota says talks with India could mean a little give and take, but ultimately, both countries would benefit from streamlining trade barriers.

“From an altruistic perspective, we want their own people to do well. Because if they do well, then they buy more of our products and our relationships are likely to be better, so this whole idea of reducing the tariff on nuts is a good thing,” said Czinkota.

There are 15 pecan-producing states in the U.S., so if officials can help farmers crack into the Indian market, the impact could be tremendous.

Young Tigers Speak Out on Trade

This Fall, I am teaching a Georgetown University Seminar on International Trade – The Insiders, populated by our First Year Students. The insiders we talk with and about are politicians, Policy Analysts, lobbyists, Ambassadors, former cabinet members, and many other highly interesting people who have a lot to share with the students.

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During the lectures, we always try to expand our understanding, knowledge and dialogue about key trade issues. Recently, we discussed the “Blood Diamonds”, which are said to make life difficult as well as bring pleasure to those who own it. However, they should be rejected by recipients, since the money obtained from diamond trade may be used for revolutions, exploitations, and other types of harm to mankind.

Since money is fungible, it occurs to me that it is only a matter of time for us to find other goods to be “facilitators of evil”. Of course, the main question is: what products or services will be the Next Nefarious “Blood Products” around the world?

Here are the top 16 issues which, after substantial thought and discussion, emerged from the minds of the young tigers who are participating on the seminar:

  • Gasoline: Oil wars continue to increase;
  • Palm oil: Palm trees are being cut down at an alarming rate, causing negative effects on the environment;
  • Actions and transactions over the internet: Blockchain technology may mislead;
  • Computer parts: Scattered rebel groups will use technology in their favor;
  • Advanced technology use: Putting in danger human rights and leveraging child labor;
  • Coffee: Coffee makers exploit land, labor, and economic systems;
  • Smartphones: We are more and more dependent on technology;
  • Pharmacology: Aggregated demand will increase market share and profit margins unacceptably;
  • Dairy: Veganism has already grown by 500% in the U.S.;
  • FIFA World Cup: Migrant workers with long shifts may lead to dissatisfied processes;
  • Robots/Artificial Intelligence: They will eventually do everything better than humans;
  • Cryptocurrencies vs current currencies: Easier for criminals and terrorists to conduct exchanges;
  • Oil: Impending energy shortage by 2030 will lead to the usage of oil as a new form of currency;
  • Biofuels (fuel-producing algae): Fossil fuels are highly valuable but their reserves are in decline;
  • Antiquities and artifacts: Terrorist groups like the Islamic State begin to claim physical property and presence for themselves;
  • Endangered species: Harming the natural world and exploiting species.

I always say that is wise to listen to these young minds, they will be in command soon. And according to them, these are the issues of the day. Remember, forewarned is forearmed.