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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cuba and your business

In December 2014 the Sun Sentinel published an article looking forward into 2015. Among the items to watch was this one”

Cuba: Few foresaw President Obama's go-it-alone approach to normalize U.S. relations with the island nation. His directive drew mixed reaction in Florida, from hostility in parts of Little Havana to anticipation from Florida business owners. While Rubio promises to block the naming of an ambassador and any funding for an embassy in Havana, all eyes remain fixed on the Cuban government for signs of political and economic change. On just one measure, can you imagine the difference unfettered Internet access would make in one of the world's most unplugged nations?”

USA Today published an article in January 2015 that said in part:

“Opening trade with Cuba not only provides U.S. businesses a new market where telecom, construction, agriculture and tourism firms could flourish, but it also will improve U.S. trade with the rest of Latin America, which would view the move favorably, said Paul Johnson, vice chair of the recently-formed U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba. The group, consisting of more than 30 firms, plans to lobby Congress to end the embargo. "We have the momentum," Johnson said. "We're carrying it forward."

Even if the embargo were to end tomorrow, huge doubts linger on doing business with Cuba, said John Kavulich, senior policy adviser to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. For starters, all trade transactions still go through the Cuban government, not individual Cubans or companies, making business cumbersome. Also, Cuban officials will only allow as much telecom infrastructure and free market leeway they feel they can control, he said. "They're not going to embrace something that's going to put them out of businesses," he said.

The island of 11 million — roughly the size of Ohio — has little-to-no dispensable consumer income and the government also defaults on contracts, making it a less-than-attractive choice for U.S. firms now, Kavulich said.

"This is not Dubai 93 miles south of Key West," he said. "There needs to be meaningful commercial and economical change in Cuba before anything that the president announced is going to be beneficial to U.S. exporters."

What plans do you have for your business?

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


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