In 2014, the United States and Cuba entered into a new era of bilateral relations aimed at ending a 54-year stretch of hostilities. In this context, major U.S. corporations are taking advantage of business opportunities resulting from revised U.S. regulations, which enable the export and sale of certain U.S. products. Specifically, a U.S. pharmaceutical company sought our support and guidance in exploring the opportunity to license and sell its medicines, medical supplies, and equipment in Cuba, which were now exempted from U.S. trade restrictions but required a special license from the U.S. Department of Commerce. To better explore this opportunity, Blue Star Strategies organized an information seeking mission to Havana ensuring it was planned in strict compliance with U.S. rules and guidelines for trade and travel with Cuba.
While the mission was within the bounds of U.S. law, significant challenges arose due to the complexities of business travel to Cuba under the new bilateral relationship. These included the need to ensure that the mission would be fully compliant with both U.S. law and Cuban regulations, including all necessary business visas for meetings in Havana with relevant government officials.
Blue Star Strategies’ recommendations focused on the need to engage strategically with the U.S. government, including the Departments of Commerce, State, and Treasury as well as with the Cuban Embassy to ensure that the mission went as planned and that its scope stayed within the boundaries set by U.S. law. Early, careful planning and attention to detail were critical to ensuring that the appropriate visas and meeting agenda in Havana were successful, as was frequent coordination and communication with the Cuban Embassy in Washington.
Blue Star Strategies identified meeting targets and coordinated an agenda with relevant healthcare and pharmaceutical agencies in Cuba. In the country’s government-owned and controlled healthcare sector, this engagement was critical to the success of the mission and to ensuring that the meetings were attended and well-received by senior Cuban decision-makers and agencies. The mission also afforded Blue Star Strategies the opportunity to observe the significant need for U.S. products and investment in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals arena in Cuba as well as in other sectors such as tourism and hospitality, infrastructure, telecommunications, and agriculture.
The information seeking mission helped the client to better understand the Cuban market and how its healthcare system operates as well as the U.S. licensing requirements to operate in the country. The mission enabled the client to develop strong contacts with government decision-makers in Cuba who manage the healthcare industry. As a result, the client came away with the necessary information to begin initiating a market entry plan in Cuba.