USA allowing suits against foreign firms in Cuba, Pompeo says

18 Avril, 2019, 06:10 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau

The Trump administration is removing a ban restricting US citizens from filing lawsuits against foreign firms working at properties seized by Cuba, following the 1959 Revolution.

Canada and the EU pledged to work together in the World Trade Organization and ban the enforcement or recognition of American court orders against Canadian or European companies.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland say the USA move "to renege on its longstanding commitment" to avert such legal action "is regrettable".

About one million Canadians annually vacation in Cuba and Toronto-based resource company Sherritt International is long established there, while countries such as Britain, France and Spain have companies active in rum, cigars and tourism.

During a recent trip to Washington, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met with Pompeo to discuss the possible negative consequences for Canadian companies if the US were to resurrect Title III, officials said.

Freeland said Canada would fully defend the interests of Canadians conducting legitimate trade and investment with Cuba, and that she had discussed the issue with her counterparts in the European Union. The act even allows lawsuits by Cubans who became US citizens years after their properties were taken.

Freeland said the government regularly met with the US officials since January, when the issue first surfaced, to raise concerns about "the possible negative consequences for Canadians - concerns that are long-standing and well known to our USA partners".

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

Canada and its European allies have pushed the Trump administration to continue to suspend use of the dormant section of the law that allows Americans to sue foreign companies linked to Cuban properties confiscated after the 1959 revolution.

Every US president since Bill Clinton has suspended the key clause to avoid those trade clashes and a potential mass of lawsuits that would prevent any future settlement with Cuba over nationalised properties.

U.S. President Donald Trump changed that practice.

On Wednesday, Pompeo said the end of the Title III exemption is rooted in Cuba's ongoing support of Nicolas Maduro's socialist government in Venezuela, and it would take effect early next month.

"The extraterritorial application of the US embargo is illegal and violates worldwide law", said Alberto Navarro, the European Union ambassador to Cuba.

Pompeo said the administration was acting because it recognized the "reality" that the bar on lawsuits, which has been in place since 1996, had not achieved the goal of pressing Cuba to enact democratic reforms or reining in what he called its export of oppression throughout the Western Hemisphere, particularly in Venezuela.

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