Rich Crocco

Cuba is an Untapped Market for Many American Companies

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Coming from someone who hadn’t been born yet when the Bay of Pigs invasion took place, U.S. relations with Cuba has always maintained a kind of surreal quality. It seemed like a concept having no beginning and no end. It just existed. Cuba was a strange place that supposedly had really good cigars. Now, with the Obama administration departing from the status quo Cuba takes on a new presence in our lives. Now it’s a real country two hundred miles off the coast of Florida. What can this country offer us? Should we have a relationship with a country having such a checkered past as well as real questions regarding the treatment of its citizens right up to the present day?

Cuba’s current leader, Raul Castro, replaced his older brother Fidel Castro in 2006 (who stepped done due to health problems). However this change didn’t represent much of a departure from the communist regime in place since 1959. After all, Raul was a leader of the Cuban Revolution right along with this brother. Last December however, the Obama Administration went public with an agenda to restore full diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. An idea which has drawn the cautious support of Raul.  This change in U.S. policy has culminated in a face to face meeting between Obama and Raul Castro this past weekend at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. The most substantive dialogue between the two countries in more than 50 years.

What does this mean for American businesses?  An untapped market in need of a major infrastructure upgrade. Only 5% of Cubans have access to the internet. Some housing and other infrastructure have not received proper upgrades in 50 years. Tourism, while it does exist catering to Canadians, Europeans and others, has not benefited from its wealthiest neighbor. Companies such as Netflix, JetBlue, AT&T and Caterpillar are just a few of the companies positioned to cash in on improved relations with Cuba, delivering internet infrastructure & content, flights and farming equipment to the country.

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One of the biggest hurtles standing in the way of improved relations with Cuba is its status as a state sponsor of terrorism. Cuba was added to this list in 1982 based on their involvement in terrorist operations  across Latin America. The other countries currently on this list are Iran, Sudan & Syria. The U.S. State Department has officially recommended Cuba be removed from the list however President Obama has not made the final decision yet. If this decision is made it could clear the way for next steps in opening up trade between the two countries.

Normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba is definitely much closer to the starting line than the finish line. There will be many roadblocks along the way for instance, 1) there are many in Washington who have publicly stated they will oppose lifting the trade embargo with Cuba established in 1962 2) in nineteen months we will have a new president-elect 3) Cuba’s government is far from stating they will work openly with the U.S. Rather they are taking this change one conversation at a time. Basically, what has happened here is a door slowly creaking open which has been sealed shut for 50 years, not an opening of the floodgates. Who knows what will come next but I hope it will be beneficial for both the U.S. and the Cuban public.

How do you feel about Obama’s intent to improve relations with Cuba? Leave me your comments.

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