The Current

New U.S.-Cuba relations spark competition for Canadian business

As U.S. President Obama thaws relations with Cuba, some Canadians doing business there worry about the impact of competition. But will America's enthusiastic engagement with Cuba really affect Canada's expectations?
U.S. President Barack Obama attends an official welcome ceremony with President of Cuba Raul Castro (L) at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2016. (Michael Reynolds/EPA)

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U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, second from left, and his wife, first lady Grace Coolidge, third from left, are shown with the President of Cuba General Gerardo Machado y Morales, right, and his wife, Elvira Machado, left, on the estate of President Machado in Havana, Cuba, Jan. 19, 1928. (AP Photo)

U.S. President Barack Obama is the first U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge, 88 years ago, to visit Cuba. Obama is in Cuba to restore diplomatic relations with the country and open up American diplomacy that includes an open door for tourism and business opportunities.

Flags of the U.S. and Cuba hang in Havana, March 20, 2016, as the island prepares for the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama. (Orlando Barria/EPA)
Currently, there are already a few U.S. companies set up inside Cuba including Starwood Hotels, Mastercard, Airbnb and Netflix. But now with the influx of Yankee enterprise taking stock, what will this new policy mean for the successful business relationship Canada has with Cuba, as well as our longstanding political relationship? 
Thousands of Cuban people along the streets in Havava greet Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau has he drives through the city, Jan. 26, 1976. Along with him in an open car are Commander-in-chief Fidel Castro and President of Cuba Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado. (Fred Chartrand/CP)

5 facts on Cuban-Canadian business relations

Canada and Mexico were the only two countries in the hemisphere to maintain uninterrupted diplomatic relations with Cuba after the Cuban Revolution in 1959.

Cuban President Fidel Castro holds baby Michel as Pierre and Margaret Trudeau look on during their state visit to Cuba in this Jan., 1976 photo. Cuban President Fidel Castro presented Margaret Trudeau with a collection of personal photographs, including this one, hours before the state funeral for ex-prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. (The Canadian Press)

In 1976, then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made a visit to Cuba which set the stage for a friendship with President Fidel Castro. In 2000 when Pierre Trudeau died, Castro was one of his pallbearers at the funeral in Montreal.

Cuban President Fidel Castro pays his respects to former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau during the lying-in-state ceremony at Montreal's city hall, Oct. 2, 2000. (Aaron Harris/Canadian Press)

According to the Cuban Tourist Board, over one million Canadians visit Cuba each year — 40 per cent of all visitors to Cuba come from Canada.

Sherritt International Corporation is the biggest Canadian player in Cuba, with annual revenue of $203 million on assets valued at just over $1 billion, according to its 2015 annual report. 

In 2013, Canada was Cuba's fourth-largest trading partner after Venezuela, the European Union and China with nearly $1 billion in two-way trade. 

Apr.28, 1988, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien wave as Chretien wraps up his visit in Havana, Cuba. Chretien spent almost six hours in meetings with President Fidel Castro and told reporters he urged Castro to free four political prisoners and make changes in Cuba's communist system. (Str-Jose Goitia/CP)

Guests in this segment:

  • Mark Entwistle, founding partner of Acasta Capital, a boutique merchant bank which does a lot of business in Cuba and formerly Canada's Ambassador to Cuba from 1993 to 1997.
  • Ricardo Alcolado, Canadian lawyer and investment consultants who specializes in helping foreign investors who want to do business in Cuba. 
  • John Kirk, professor in the department of Spanish and Latin American studies at Dalhousie University. 

Pierre and Margaret Trudeau with Fidel Castro in Cuba, Jan. 1976. (Canadian Press)

The Current's Marc Apollonio, Idella Sturino and Kinsey Clarke.