On September 12 the United States and Cuba held its Inaugural Economic Dialogue in Washington, D.C.
The goal of the Dialogue is promoting long-term bilateral engagement on a wide range of topics as part of the ongoing normalization process. The delegations discussed trade and investment, labor and employment, renewable energy and energy efficiency, small business, intellectual property rights, economic policy, regulatory and banking matters, and telecommunications and internet access. Both parties agreed to continue the dialogue and, under its auspices, convene working groups to continue technical discussions in the coming months.
The U.S. delegation was co-chaired by Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin and U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Industry and Security Matthew Borman. The Cuban delegation was headed by Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment Vice Minister of Commercial Policy Ileana Nunez Mordoche.
In the meantime, a U.S. newspaper, InCubaToday, reports that the Cuban military’s Business Administration Group, GAESA, “has grown dramatically since the declaration of detente between the U.S. and Cuba on Dec. 17, 2014.” GAESA operates through at least the following branches or subsidiaries:
- Its tourism office, Gaviota, “has 62 hotels with 26,752 rooms across Cuba, pulling in some $700 million a year from more than 40 percent of the tourists who visit Cuba” and “is in the midst of a hotel building spree that outpaces projects under control of nominally civilian agencies like the Ministry of Tourism.”
- Its Cimex has “retail stores, auto-rental businesses and even a recording studio among its holdings.”
- Its “retail chain, TRD, has hundreds of shops across Cuba that sell everything from soap to home electronics at prices often several times those in nearby countries.”
- “The military-run Mariel port west of Havana has seen double-digit growth fueled largely by demand in the tourism sector.”
- “The armed forces this year took over the bank that does business with foreign companies, assuming control of most of Cuba’s day-to-day international financial transactions.”
According to the InCubaToday article, the Cuban “armed forces are widely seen in Cuba as efficient, fast-moving and relatively unscathed by the low-level payoffs and pilferage that plague so much of the government.” A similar observation was offered by Richard Feinberg of the Brookings Institution: “GAESA is wisely investing in the more international — and more lucrative — segments of the Cuban economy. This gives the military technocrats a strong stake in a more outwardly oriented and internationally competitive Cuba deeply integrated into global markets.”
 Department of State, United States and Cuba Hold Inaugural Economic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. (Sept. 12, 2016); Cuba Foreign Ministry, Celebrate Cuba and the United States first bilateral economic dialogue, Granma (Sept. 12, 2016).
 Rodriguez, Amid post-détente tourism boom, Cuban military expands its economic empire, InCubaToday (Sept. 9, 2016).