The head of Pernod Ricard's joint rum venture in Cuba has said he is more optimistic of seeing an end to the country's row with the US, following last year's election of Barack Obama as president.

Havana Club International, Pernod's alliance with the Cuban government in the country, has been unable to launch its namesake rum brand in the US thanks to the country's embargo on Cuban products, which marks its 50th anniversary this year.

The embargo was introduced by the US in 1959, following the revolution that year, which saw Fidel Castro topple the US-supported Batista government.

Speaking exclusively to just-drinks in Cuba yesterday (24 February), Marc Beuve-Méry, managing director of Havana Club International, said he believed the change of leadership in the US, which took effect last month, could see a thaw in relations between the two countries.

"President Obama and Senator (Hilary) Clinton have said they are open to dialogue, which was not the case before," Beuve-Méry told just-drinks. "When there is dialogue, there is more possibility to see changes."

Beuve-Méry noted that the new president has already announced his intention to end restrictions on visits to Cuba by Cuban Americans, as well as looking to lift a ban on Cuban Americans sending money back to their families in Cuba.

However, although these changes have been announced by the new legislature, no date has been given for the implementation of these changes, he added.

"That could be the first step, but I can't speculate," Beuve-Méry continued. "It's not an easy subject - any subject that hasn't been resolved in 50 years cannot be easy. Also, President Obama has a lot of hot subjects on the table at this moment in time.

Havana Club is keen to see the end of the embargo, with the US accounting for around 40% of the global rum market.

However, even if the embargo was lifted, Pernod would still have to win a long-running legal dispute with Bacardi over the Havana Club name in the US market. 

Three years ago, the US Patent and Trademark office deemed Cuba's US registration of the Havana Club trademark "cancelled/expired".

A Bacardi spokesperson told just-drinks: "The cancellation of the Cuba's US trademark puts an end to any vestige Pernod Ricard and Cuba have to any rights in the US for the Havana Club trademark, unless Cuba is successful in overcoming this decision."