Daily Briefing – April 13, 2018

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New Nominee for Secretary of State Favors Cuba Engagement: Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo told a Senate committee yesterday that he is in favor of improving ties with Cuba. Despite concerns for the safety of U.S. diplomats in Cuba, Pompeo said he want to build a team in Havana that “represents the finest of American diplomacy.” The U.S. embassy staff in Havana has been reduced to 10, mostly to secure and maintain the facility. Outside of Chargé d’affaires Philip S. Goldberg, there are no economic, political or public affairs officers currently on staff. (Miami Herald)

Vietnam to Send Trade Delegation to Cuba:A delegation from the Investment and Trade Promotion Centre (ITPC) of Ho Chi Minh City is scheduled to arrive in Havana this Sunday to discuss trade and investment opportunities in food processing, consumer goods, construction and other services. Vietnam is looking to export textiles, clothing, shoes, agriculture and aquaculture products while Cuba will supply pharmaceuticals, biological products, healthcare services and tourism. According to the ITPC, two-way trade between Vietnam and Cuba reached $250 million in 2016, with Vietnamese exports to Cuba accounting for more than 95 percent of the trade. (Vietnam Plus)

French Energy Company Seeks Partners for Cuba Plant:The French energy giant Total has begun inquiries for companies interested in providing elements for a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU). The gas power plant would operate off the coast of Matanzas Bay east of Havana. Plans call for a 600 MW power plant with an adjacent regasification plant in partnership with Cuban state company Union Electrica. Engineering work is expected to begin this summer, financing to be completed by early 2019, and commercial operations to begin in late 2021. (Trade Winds)

Political Disruptions Continue at Americas Summit: The upcoming VIII Summit of the Americas in Peru this weekend continues to spark political disruptions. On Wednesday, the former presidents of Costa Rica and Bolivia issued a statement urging Latin leaders at the summit to reject the new Cuban government expected to take power next week. Yesterday, the Cuban delegation protested the final session of a civil society conference taking place alongside the summit, saying that Cuban dissidents who were part of the conference were being backed by U.S. officials who wanted to destabilize the country. (Miami Herald)

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