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Penny Pritzker


US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has arrived in Cuba for two days of talks focusing on the trade embargo.

Penny Pritzker will discuss recent measures approved by the US to mitigate the impact of the embargo.

Since the US and Cuba announced last year they were restoring relations, President Barack Obama has pushed for the restrictions to be scrapped.

However, Barack Obama faces opposition from the Republican majority in the Congress.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Penny Pritzker is the most senior American official to visit Cuba since Secretary of State John Kerry reopened the embassy in Havana in July.

Shortly after landing in Havana, Penny Pritzker visited the Special Enterprise Zone, an area developed near the Mariel port to encourage foreign investment.

On October 7, the secretary of commerce is due to meet the Cuban trade and foreign ministers for discussions on the embargo.

The US announced in recent weeks a number of measures to encourage trade even with the embargo still in place.

American companies will no longer be breaking US law for setting up premises in Cuba, the US authorities announced.

The Cuban government needs to lift some of its own bureaucratic and legal obstacles for the measures to work.

There may be some reluctance from the Cuban authorities to allow a faster pace of change while there are other issues pending, such as new civil aviation rules, ferry services between Florida and Cuba and greater internet access.

The first American economic sanctions against Cuba were imposed in 1960.

Business is starting to suffer from the US shutdown, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has warned.

Penny Pritzker’s comments at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) came as leaders gathering for the summit voiced worries about the US situation.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino said that what happens in the US “affects us all”.

On Friday, the US defense contractor Lockheed Martin said it would put 3,000 workers on unpaid leave.

The US government closed non-essential operations on Tuesday after Congress failed to agree a new budget.

President Barack Obama cancelled a scheduled trip to Asia because of the shutdown.

“The shutdown is not good for business. It’s not good for the economy,” Penny Pritzker said.

The US government closed non-essential operations on Tuesday after Congress failed to agree a new budget

The US government closed non-essential operations on Tuesday after Congress failed to agree a new budget

One consequence of the shutdown had been her department’s inability to collate vital economic data.

“We’re a huge source of data for American business and that is a problem… It’s affecting businesses and it’s affecting their ability to get data,” she said.

From Monday, Lockheed Martin will put 3,000 staff on leave, but the defense giant said this number would rise if the shutdown continued.

“I’m disappointed that we must take these actions and we continue to encourage our lawmakers to come together to pass a funding bill that will end this shutdown,” Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed’s chief executive and president, said in a statement.

“We hope that Congress and the Administration are able to resolve this situation as soon as possible,” she added.

The announcement followed United Technologies’ decision to temporarily lay off 2,000 employees.

The company, which makes Blackhawk helicopters, said some manufacturing had been halted because there were no government inspectors working to sign off products.

The widening impact of the shutdown sparked concern at APEC meeting in Bali on Sunday.

Benigno Aquino said: “The US economy is the number one economy in the world, what happens there affects all of us.

“The world economy obviously is not in a position to withstand too much shock at this time when we are just recovering as a global economy.”

Meanwhile, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said the US had to confront its fiscal problems “in a better way than they are doing it now with shutting down the government”.

Barack Obama is refusing to negotiate with the Republicans over the budget issues until they pass a temporary bill to reopen the government.

The president also wants agreement to raise the $16.7 trillion US borrowing limit, to avoid the country defaulting on its debts.

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