HAVANA – Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, some of our country’s most prominent business leaders are in Havana, Cuba this week, where they will be discussing ways to build on the warming relationship between the two nations, exploring potential business opportunities and continuing to lay the groundwork for more entrepreneurship and accelerated economic growth in the country.
However, none of that would be possible without better communication and information sharing between Cubans and Americans. During the trip, one company is tackling that problem in a big way.
On Monday, Sprint executives announced that they have signed an agreement with Cuba’s telecommunications officials to become the first U.S. wireless carrier to offer roaming service on the island nation. Sprint was already the lone American carrier to hold a direct long-distance agreement with the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA).
“This is a historic moment,” Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said at a signing ceremony in Havana with U.S. Chamber representatives. “Many people depend on their smartphones for everything they do in their lives. Now we’re making it easy for them to stay connected when they travel outside of the U.S.”
Sprint’s announcement coincides with the first board meeting of the U.S.-Cuba Business Council, which also took place in Havana on Monday. Headed by the U.S. Chamber, the council is comprised of American business executives who have rallied to build a strong and strategic commercial relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.
“We’re facing a historic opportunity to support a vital and growing Cuban private sector, one that is defined by entrepreneurs whose expanding efforts show the spirit of free enterprise is already taking hold in the country,” U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue said last month when the group was announced. “This council will work tirelessly to ensure that both countries can take advantage of the new avenues for trade, investment and economic cooperation in the bilateral relationship.”
Dozens of council members made the three-day trip down to Cuba this week, including executives from Amway, Boeing, and Caterpillar and American Airlines. During their stay, they will sit down with senior government officials, meet some of their industry counterparts in Cuba and tour the country’s new $900 million Port Mariel. In addition, they will be attending the Havana International Fair, an annual trade fair that serves as the gateway to doing business in Cuba.
“Today’s conference and the Cuba Council’s first delegation to Havana constitute the start of a push,” Myron Brilliant, the U.S. Chamber’s executive vice president and head of international affairs, said to open the board meeting in Havana. “A push that, through working together, we can turn into a real thrust for job creation and prosperity.”