Daily Management Review

Business Interests of U.S. In Cuba, Once Blooming Under Obama, Now Wilting Under Trump


11/12/2017




In what can be read as a sign for the declining interest of U.S. firms to do business in Cuba since Donald Trump took over Presidency, there were only 13 U.S. companies that took up stands at this year’s Cub’s trade fair.
 
The top-ranking event on Cuba’s business calendar saw the participation of 33 U.S. companies who took stands last year at the fair as there was high enthusiasm after a rapprochement in the mutual relationship between the U.S. Cuba as agreed upon by former U.S. President Barack Obama and the new Cuban leader Raul Castro in 2014.
 
This year however, the mood was very somber at the fair in Havana. The very few U.S. businessmen were no match to the more than 150 Spanish businesses taking up stalls in five pavilions and a record company delegation sent over by China.
 
“I’ve never seen it this deserted,” said Jay Brickman, vice president of Florida-based shipping company Crowley Maritime Corp, who has been attending the fair for 15 years. “People have really gotten discouraged, and feel they maybe should be investing their time someplace else.”
 
With a market for 11 million consumers, Cuba had become a hot bed for U.S. companies as they embraced the country following the détente of relationships.
 
Regular flights from the U.S. were restored due to the travel-related exemptions to the embargo. While Cuba was included in their itineraries by cruise operators such as Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line, the management of a Cuban hotel was taken over by Starwood Hotels which is a subsidiary of Marriott International Inc.
 
But such enthusiasm was dampened due to problems in doing business in Cuba and the worsening relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.
 
Cuba is still vastly controlled by the military and U.S. President Trump ordered a ban on U.S. companies doing business with the Cuban military in June, in addition to stricter trade and travel regulations. On Wednesday, those regulations were unveiled.
 
“This is a huge step backwards,” said former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, the Cuban-born head of the U.S.-Cuba Business Council. “We had made so much progress.”
 
The gloomy environment between the two countries is being compounded by multiple allegations of attacks on diplomats from the U.S. which is now unfolding as a full blown diplomatic crisis between the countries.
 
Terming the deterioration of the business environment under the Trump administration, the issuance of Cuba Trade magazine was cut from to bi-monthly from monthly only last month. The magazine is based in Miami. With the inclusion of an agriculture conference which was to be held in Chicago, there have been cancellations of multiple Cuba business conferences in the United States since June this year.
 
U.S. farmers have been hoping to obtain credits for exporting farm products to Cuba after the Obama détente. But the embargo would not even be eased as of now – the Trump administration has clearly stated, and hence lifting of the embargo is still far off.
 
“We need to get the diplomatic issue off the table first,” said Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, adding U.S. food exports to Cuba could total $1 billion if relations were normalized.
 
(Source:www.reuters.com) 






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