Trump Returns to 1959

The reimplementation of the Helms-Burton Act is a calculated hit against Cuba and the European Union.

The Trump administration has lifted the suspension of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. From now on, U.S. companies that had their property expropriated following the 1959 Cuban revolution will be able to lodge a complaint in the courts for compensation. Donald Trump’s action has effectively undone Barack Obama’s strategy of easing relations with Cuba, raised the question of U.S. extraterritorial jurisdiction and dragged the European Union − and crucially Spain − into a new act of trade aggression. We are dealing with a case of political disregard for the law, and are one step further into the commercial cold war that characterizes his presidency.

Many European and Spanish companies are using property that was expropriated 60 years ago, legitimately acquired and with legal authorization. Reactivating a chain of historic claims now, on the contentious anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, can only be interpreted as part of Trump’s political and business strategy, which mixes reactionary protectionism with the most unpleasant economic nationalism. It comes at an especially inopportune moment when the Council of the European Union has agreed to open trade talks with the United States. But this is a favorite Trump tactic: lash out and apply pressure before entering into a negotiation.

Spanish companies, particularly hotels, are finding themselves tangled up in lawsuits and legal disputes that compromise the stability of their businesses in the years ahead. For the Cuban economy, this means an increase in uncertainty, which will dissuade investors and curb growth. For Brussels, it creates a dilemma. The EU can either continue with its “wait and see” tactic, or activate its blocking statute, which would allow the European courts to reject the U.S. rulings, or counterattack by holding back on scheduled business negotiations.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply