November 1, 2015, Havana, Cuba – A delegation of members of the National Association of Beverage Importers (NABI) has successfully concluded the first trip by a U.S. alcohol importer group to Cuba in over 60 years, designed to better understand Cuban beverage alcohol production, sales and regulations. The trip was the culmination of significant coordination and efforts by industry leaders in both nations.
“We began planning this trip following the announcement that the American political strategy with Cuba had shifted” according to Bill Earle, NABI president. He added, “With so much change on the horizon, our leadership felt it was important that NABI members see and experience Cuba as soon as possible. NABI was welcomed as the first alcohol importer group to experience the current status of our industry in Cuba in over 60 years. It was well worth the effort and patience to make this amazing trip happen.”
The trip facilitated significant high-level contacts between senior Cuban officials and U.S. industry leaders. This included highly productive meetings with Cuban ministers responsible for food, trade and joint venture management. Cuban government officials expressed openness to discussions about future trade and ways to partner with beverage alcohol importers, and NABI established important contacts at all levels that will assist in future relationships.
At present, U.S. trade regulations place significant limits on the ability of U.S. entities to invest or partner with Cuban alcohol producers. The Cuban alcohol industry has had longstanding international partnerships with non-U.S. entities, however. Leaders in the Cuban alcohol industry made clear that they hope to forge and strengthen ties to NABI and the U.S. alcohol beverage industry.
The delegation was struck by the extraordinary warmth of the Cuban people as they traveled throughout the country. Indeed, NABI found itself universally welcomed by its Cuban hosts.
Included in the NABI delegation were: John Beaudette, MHW Ltd; Michael Kelly, Arent Fox; Mike Mitaro, Mitaro Consulting; Sergio Barrios, Mikes; Bill Earle and Bernadine Emamali, NABI.
The National Association of Beverage Importers (NABI) is the trade association representing US based importers of beer, wine and distilled spirits. For over 80 years NABI has represented the interests of the beverage alcohol import community by assuring access to the US market and alerting the import community to changes in the regulatory environment. NABI has been active in harmonizing the practices and procedures of international suppliers with the requirements for trade at the federal and state level in the American market. NABI’s wine and beer members represent some of the highest volume and value importers in the US. Specific expertise in label and formula matters has been particularly valuable to members in resolving barriers to entry. Information about NABI can be found at www.bevimporters.org