Time to start new US-Cuba relations: US commerce chief

The head of the US Chamber of Commerce said Thursday the time has come to start a new chapter in relations between Cuba and the United States.

"For too long, the relationship between our nations has been defined by our differences and shackled by our past," Thomas Donohue said on a visit to the communist-ruled island.

"It does not have to be that way. It's time to begin a new chapter in US-Cuban relations. And the time to begin is now."

Washington has had an economic embargo clamped on Cuba since 1962, and the two have never moved off a Cold War footing in their ties.

Donohue, speaking at the end of a three-day visit accompanied by a high-ranking business delegation, noted that Cuba was changing some of its economic policies and that its private sector was "clearly growing."

"And the US has revised some of its restrictions on the movement of people and money," he added.

"There is lots more to do. And lots to do on both sides."

Saying it was "time for a new approach," Donohue noted the Chamber of Commerce, which represents three million companies, has urged Washington to remove the trade embargo on Cuba for years.

President Barack Obama "could take additional steps to facilitate more travels between our nations, he could create new avenues for export and import of goods and services," Donohue added.

"That's the interest of American people."

Cuba, on the other hand, "should expand and accelerate its economic reforms, because that in the interest of the Cuban people."