United States, Cuba Restore Diplomatic Relations

After 54 years, the United States and Cuba yesterday restored full diplomatic relations following the Cold War. The California Chamber of Commerce is hopeful that this change in relations will open Cuba to economic and trade opportunities for U.S. and California companies.

According to an article by The Associated Press, the U.S. and Cuba severed diplomatic relations in 1961 and since the 1970s have been represented in each other’s capitals by limited-service interest sections. Their conversion to embassies tolled a knell for policy approaches spawned and hardened over the five decades since President John F. Kennedy first tangled with youthful revolutionary Fidel Castro over Soviet expansion in the Americas.

On December 17, 2014, Presidents Obama and Raúl Castro announced simultaneously the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations. Since then, U.S. and Cuban negotiators have met several times in a bid to hammer out an agreement for establishing a U.S. embassy in Havana and easing travel and commercial restrictions. Presidents Obama and Raúl Castro met at the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10and 11, 2015. This follows what had been the end of relations on January 3, 1961, 54 years ago.

Cuba Policy Trip

In mid-April, California Chamber of Commerce Vice President Susanne T. Stirling went to Cuba on a policy trip for a week of immersion in Cuban governance, business, society, art and culture as one of a number of “legally licensed educational travelers.”

The nationwide 20-member delegation met with high-ranking government officials—including U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who was recently named Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba —chatted with entrepreneurs in the emerging Cuban private sector, enjoyed the work of professional artists and musicians, heard from renowned historians and convened with diplomats and economists familiar with the intricacies of the island. This was truly an insider’s perspective to a host of topics, including social issues, economic realities, and prospects for the island’s future, the unique U.S.-Cuba relationship and everyday life in Cuba.

The delegation leader, Ambassador Charles Shapiro,president of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, was the U.S. Department of State coordinator for Cuba from 1999–2001, including during the unfolding of the Elian Gonzalez saga from Thanksgiving 2000 through the spring of 2001. Shapiro has led previous delegations to Cuba and served as U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela from 2002–2004. In May 2014, Ambassador Shapiro joined with 43 other former officials in sending an open letter to President Obama urging more support for Cuban civil society.

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling

Susanne T. Stirling, vice president, international affairs, has headed CalChamber international activities for more than four decades. She is an appointee of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to the National Export Council, and serves on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce International Policy Committee, the California International Relations Foundation, and the Chile-California Council. Originally from Denmark, she studied at the University of Copenhagen and holds a B.A. in international relations from the University of the Pacific, where she served as a regent from 2012 to 2021. She earned an M.A. from the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California. See full bio.