The U.S.-Cuba Policy Agenda
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.
- Diplomatic engagement: 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.
- Promotion of a more open Internet in Cuba: One way to demonstrate to the Cuban government the value of developing a free and open Internet is to offer a broad a set of U.S. technology products and services to the Cuban people while also pursuing legitimate national security objectives. There is room for changes that would make more information available to Cuban citizens, enabling them to express themselves more freely and connect to economic opportunities. We support measures that would authorize the provision of a broader set of cloud technology and developer tools by U.S. companies to Cubans and the online publication and distribution of Cuban-origin applications.
- Support agricultural trade with Cuba: Declining tourism activity, a damaged economy and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused food shortages and high demand for basic commodities in Cuba. Cubans are experiencing a serious food crisis. U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba have the potential to increase significantly and to minimize the suffering of Cubans if some elements of the embargo are lifted. As an initial step, we propose the removal of prohibitions on financing of agricultural exports to Cuba.
- Suspension of Title III of the Cuban and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996: This act allows U.S. nationals to file suit in U.S. courts against entities trafficking in confiscated property in Cuba. Although the provision has generated few lawsuits since its reinstatement, it represents a legal concern for U.S. companies planning to do business in Cuba, and that in turn has had a chilling effect on contacts and commerce.
- Reassessment of Cuba designations: The U.S. administration should review Cuba’s status under various U.S. laws and regulations related to its support for international terrorism (e.g., Section 1754(c) of the National Defense Authorization Act and Section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act).
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the USCBC stand ready to assist the ongoing U.S. government policy reviews of Cuba. We urge the U.S. administration to act immediately to reverse some of the measures of the previous administration that negatively impacted Cuban American families, the Cuban people and the bilateral commercial relationship and set in motion a new era of U.S.-Cuba relations.