U.S.-Cuba Relations - What Does the Future Hold?

A quien madruga, Dios lo ayuda.” -- The early bird catches the worm

Nearly six months ago, President Obama initiated a plan by which Cuba and the U.S. would restore diplomatic relations. In April, leaders of the two nations met face-to-face for the first time since the countries severed ties in 1961. For those who hope to find business opportunities in Cuba, the changes can’t come soon enough.

“The next and ultimately final step in allowing American business will be lifting the 53-year trade embargo, which would allow full and unfettered investment in Cuba,” said Christopher Peake of Peake Communication, a Chamber member who frequently travels to Cuba for business. “The president has relaxed restrictions on some imports, travel and telecommunications, so those three businesses are beginning to take shape.”

The island nation of 11 million has guaranteed access to health care, a higher literacy rate and a lower infant mortality rate than the U.S. Adjustments to the trade embargo have allowed more U.S. agriculture and medical supplies to flow into Cuba with hopes that increased relations could prove favorable for trade between the U.S. and other Latin American countries.

Exporting primarily food and agriculture products, the U.S. is currently the fourth-largest exporter to Cuba. According to a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, if the embargo were lifted, merchandise exports to Cuba could reach $4.3 billion annually, up from zero today.

Even with major changes in policy, doing business in Cuba will not be without its challenges. Regulation and government control will still be part of the process. For some, those challenges may reap great rewards.

If you are interested in U.S.-Cuba business relations, I’d love to hear from you.  Email me at lodom@nashvillechamber.com.

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