Pittsburgh Mayor Builds Ties With Cuba

May 26, 2015

Mayor Bill Peduto is in Cuba this week along with Pittsburgh-area manufacturing leaders in the hopes of establishing Pittsburgh as a trade partner with the island nation, should Congress lift the embargo between the two countries.

Back in December, President Obama ordered the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba under a normalization process known as the “Cuban Thaw.” The restoration won’t be complete until the embargo, which has been in effect since the 1960s, is terminated.

“Pittsburgh companies want to make the case that we’re ready to reestablish trade with this country," city spokesman Tim McNulty said. "When that does happen, it’s going to be beneficial both to Pittsburgh businesses and Cuba.”

While in Cuba, the mayor and local business leaders are meeting with Cuban leaders on how to best establish those economic ties.

“The key was the mayor’s participation in the trip," McNulty said. "A lot of these meetings wouldn’t have happened if the mayor wasn’t there to have the doors be opened. So that’s why he’s doing it on behalf of Pittsburgh businesses.”

Steel City officials have said they believe the city is in a unique position to fulfill Cuba’s manufacturing and infrastructure needs.

“Pittsburgh is really making a name for itself with its advanced manufacturing,” McNulty said. “And so we’re hoping Cuba will adopt that model as it builds out after the embargo is lifted and Pittsburgh businesses will be uniquely positioned to help.

“Clearly it’s a long-term effort," he said. "That’s why we’re putting some of the foundation in place now, so that we can be good to go when the embargo is lifted.”

Peduto's trip, which wraps up Wednesday, follows several smaller-scale local meetings.

Oakland-based economic development group Catalyst Connection held a meeting between a Cuban envoy and local business and community leaders last fall. Pittsburgh community and business leaders also attended a reception at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C. in December.