US President Barack Obama has pledged to seek a “new beginning” in ties with communist-ruled Cuba as part of a new era of US engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean.He was speaking to other leaders in the hemisphere at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. After entering the conference centre to warm applause President Obama said America was seeking an “equal partnership” with all the nations of the Americas. “The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba. I know there is a longer journey that must be travelled in overcoming decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day,” he said. Before addressing his counterparts, the US president initiated a handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, one of Washington’s most virulent critics in the region, heralding a possible improvement in ties with the oil producing nation. The summit in Port of Spain is expected to address the global economic downturn and the region’s energy and security needs over the weekend.