Manufacturers in the United States produce great products desired across the globe each and every day. But our single greatest export remains America’s values – values which include free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity, and a willingness to lead by example.
That has never been clearer to me than it was during my recent trip to Cuba when I took eight manufacturers there to engage in discussions with government officials and engage in a dialogue with the Cuban people.
Times have changed. The tense days of Kennedy, Castro, and the Cuban missile crisis are behind us. I witnessed a nation in transition, whose citizens want to adapt their economy and expand their opportunities.
The decision to normalize diplomatic relations with that isolated island was controversial in some quarters, but a recent national survey found that nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults favor ending the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. They also favor lifting the restrictions on travel to the island. Based on what I saw during my visit, clearly the time is right for positive interactions between the United States and Cuba.
Economic engagement will benefit both countries. But in the case of Cuba, it will launch its citizens on a trajectory of greater prosperity, opportunity, and freedom.
To get there, we need to do more.
Just 90 miles from the United States, Cuba is well-positioned to become a market for U.S. goods and services. With normalized trade, American exports of goods to Cuba could reach an estimated $4 billion per year.
While the United States has eased some of the restrictions on travel, trade and investment, lifting them completely is up to Congress.
The U.S. government has made allowances for some exports to Cuba and issued changes to facilitate authorized travel to the island. There remains, though, a long road ahead for both countries to expand trade and investment opportunities.
Manufacturers are committed to sharing with the Cuban people American values that will enrich the lives of all. Congress needs to listen, and to take action by repealing the trade embargo and lifting restrictions on travel once and for all.
The Cuban government should reciprocate by allowing U.S. companies to trade directly with the emerging Cuban private sector and by continuing market-oriented reforms that facilitate foreign investment.
I encourage you to communicate with your representatives in Washington. Expanded economic engagement means new opportunities for us, and greater prosperity and freedom for Cubans. It is time to demonstrate our American values in action.