Atlanta forum focusing on Cuba business opportunities

Atlanta Business Chronicle

By: Dave Williams

Atlanta executives interested in doing business with Cuba are getting how-to tips this week directly from Cuban government officials.

Ruben Ramos Arrieta, the Washington, D.C.-based minister responsible for the Cuban Embassy’s Economic and Trade Office, and Joel Lago Olivia, the embassy’s first secretary, are in Atlanta for a two-day forum to further dialogue on Cuba’s needs and how Atlanta companies can take advantage of emerging business opportunities in a nation that until recently was off limits to American commerce.

Regulations governing U.S. companies doing business in Cuba have been undergoing rapid change since December 2014, when President Barack Obama announced the start of a move toward normalizing relations with the Communist island nation after 50 years of what he called a failed Cold War-era policy.

“There are industry sectors that have already begun entering that market,” said Deitra Crawley, a partner with Atlanta-based Taylor English Duma LLP, which is sponsoring the forum. “It’s a matter now of how both governments are going to open up trade.”

While the forum, which ends on Tuesday, is not dealing directly with politics, an organization that advocates ending the U.S. travel and trade embargo of Cuba used the occasion of the forum to issue an announcement that it is launching a Georgia council of political, business and community leaders to promote expanding trade between the two nations.

“Georgia businesses are stuck on the sidelines as our foreign competitors continue to take advantage of Cuba’s growing markets,” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba. “It’s time to end 50 years of failed, isolationist policies toward Cuba.”

The Engage Cuba Georgia State Council includes Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black and state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler, according to the group’s news release.

Participants in the forum include Delta Air Lines Inc., United Parcel Service Inc., Arby’s and Georgia Power Co.