The European Union said it rejected the full application of the Helm-Burton law, which could expose its companies to legal actions in U.S. courts.
President Donald Trump administration ordered Wednesday the lifting of the suspension of Helm-Burton law’s Titles III and IV, which would allow filing lawsuits against foreign companies operating in Cuba.
The U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton will refer to the application of those norms during a meeting with former mercenaries who participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion on April 17, 1961.
Through Title III, U.S. citizens could sue in their country’s courts those who "traffic" with institutions in Cuba that were nationalized after Jan. 1, 1959, when the Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro defeated the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.
Since President Bill Clinton’s administration (1993-2001), U.S. has avoided the implementation of Title III by issuing “temporary” six-month suspensions. This has been the usual practice because the full implementation of the Helm-Burton law would imply massive damages not only for Cuba but also for the companies from the U.S, the European Union (EU) and Canada.
The Trump administration, however, announced that, as of March 19, it would allow the filling of lawsuits against more than 200 Cuban companies included in a unilateral list of sanctions.
Lawyer Robert Muse told Prensa Latina that everything indicates that President Trump does seek to implement Title III against foreign companies operating in Cuba. He added that the U.S. government could also apply Title IV, which allows the U.S. to deny visas to foreign businessmen investing in nationalized properties in Cuba.
Muse also considers that Bolton could push for a tougher restriction on travel by U.S. citizens to the island through the imposition of spending limits; or the inclusion of Cuba in the Department of State’s list of countries sponsoring terrorism.
Reacting to President Trump’s threats, the European Commission (EC) said Wednesday that it is "prepared" to protect the interests of EU companies in Cuba.
"The EU is prepared to protect European interests, including European investments and economic activities of individuals and entities in their relations with Cuba, if they were to be affected," Alexander Winterstein, the EU Commission spokesman, said and pointed out that the EU strongly opposes the "extraterritorial application of unilateral restrictive measures which are contrary to international law."
The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini also warned that the bloc could sue the U.S. before the World Trade Organization (WTO) if Washington implemented those measures.
In fact, the EU already sued the U.S. before the WTO two decades ago, when the Helms-Burton law was passed but withdrew its complaint once the White House agreed to suspend Title III.
The U.S. measures against Cuba will come into force as of May 2, when the last suspension of Title III expires.
"Any person or company doing business in Cuba should heed this announcement," the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.