The U.S.-Cuba Business Council eagerly awaits the realization of President Biden’s campaign promise to reverse U.S. policies that raised barriers to person-to-person contacts and commerce between the American and Cuban people and failed to advance democracy and human rights in Cuba. With Raul Castro in retirement and a gradual evolution in economic policies – currency reform, and liberalization of policies affecting entrepreneurs and private farmers – the opportunity for business and all forms of American positive engagement is greater than before.
The U.S.-Cuba Business Council, the premier business advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening the economic and commercial relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, proposes the following one-year plan for concrete progress on U.S-Cuba relations.
Reconnection of families through facilitation of remittances and travel: Recognizing that Cuban Americans are the best ambassadors for freedom in Cuba and that American citizens can serve as emissaries of democratic values, we propose a policy of engagement with the Cuban people. Initial actions to reconnect Cuban-American families can be partially accomplished by ending restrictions on remittances (e.g., removing the dollar limits and lifting the ban on Cuban remittance processors) and travel activities (e.g., broadening the authorized travel categories, including individual “people-to-people” and allowing commercial and charter flights to offer services outside of Havana). Easing restrictions will enable Cuban Americans in the U.S. to help their relatives during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be a good faith effort in rebuilding the U.S.- Cuba relationship.
Support of businesses through remittances and travel
In line with the Biden administration’s commitment to supporting the Cuban people’s efforts to chart their own paths, we propose a policy that empowers Cuba’s private sector, which has been heaviest hit in the last two years by U.S. restrictions and the pandemic. In a Cuba Education Travel (CET) survey, Cuentapropistas stated that their success was strongly tied to U.S. travel. Accordingly, we would propose broadening the authorized travel categories to include individual and group people-to-people exchanges and restoring the “professional meetings” category. We would also encourage reauthorizing donative remittances, which can be a critical source of capital for new businesses. Doing so would help U.S. travel companies facilitate important engagement programs and allow the U.S. private sector to better engage with Cuban businesses and organizations. It would also help Cuban entrepreneurs take advantage of recent easing of Cuban restrictions on starting and running a business.
The restart of diplomatic engagement in areas of mutual interest where there are existing bilateral cooperation agreements — health, environment, and law enforcement — and the gradual safe restaffing of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba are crucial to the bilateral relationship and serve a variety of U.S. interests. Among other important consular services to Americans, the Embassy is a listening post for U.S. diplomats to better understand developments on the island and engage with Cuban citizens.