The European Union would retaliate against any US sanctions on investments in Cuba, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday.
"If the American administration decided to also impose a regime of sanctions on investments in Cuba, in contravention of what has been decided for several years now by our American allies, we would react. Europe would also react and is ready to also impose sanctions at our end," noted Le Maire.
His comments come on the heels of a joint statement by Brussels and Ottawa, which said the extension of Cuba-related sanctions by the US was in breach of international law. Spain, in turn, pledged to ask the EU to challenge the US move in the World Trade Organisation.
Their anger was caused by the Trump administration lifting a ban on lawsuits against companies and individuals benefiting from properties confiscated from American citizens in Cuba.
This right was granted to American citizens under a 1996 law, but US presidents have suspended this legal provision for 23 years so as not to alienate trading partners. Donald Trump, who has vocally supported Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido, lifted the ban in an effort to increase pressure on the Cuban government, which supports legitimate President Maduro.
US officials said no exemptions would be granted under this decision. According to Kimberly Breier, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the US would continue to discuss this matter with the EU and Canada.
According to Brier, the government has certified nearly 6,000 claims for properties seized in Cuba with a total value of approximately $8 billion: $2 billion in property and $6 billion in interest.