President Obama made a historic visit this week to Cuba—the first visit by a sitting U.S. president in nearly 90 years—on the heels of new announcements last week to further ease restrictions on exports and facilitate authorized travel to the island. In an address to the Cuban people, President Obama made clear that the goal of the trip was to “bury the last remnants of the Cold War in the Americas.” Across the three-day visit, President Obama engaged local entrepreneurs, visited the newly reopened U.S. Embassy and met with Cuban President Raul Castro to discuss a number of key issues impacting the path forward on normal trade relations between the two countries. At the start of the trip, Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced a new deal to develop and manage operations in Cuba, becoming the first U.S. hotel company presence on the island since the 1959 revolution. While the travel ban for U.S. tourism remains, the deal serves as another indicator of the significant changes in diplomatic relations over the past year.
The NAM released today a letter to commend Reps. Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) for their efforts to repeal the trade embargo on Cuba, the Cuba Trade Act of 2015 (H.R. 3238). The NAM is a strong advocate for a robust trade agenda to open markets abroad for manufacturers in the United States, and eliminating the trade embargo on Cuba will allow for increased economic activity between the two nations. A 2014 Peterson Institute study estimated that U.S. merchandise exports to Cuba could reach $4.3 billion annually. In recent years, merchandise exports to Cuba have been a fraction of that—generally ranging between $300 million and $500 million annually.
Manufacturers support the ongoing efforts to achieve normal trade relations with Cuba, and the NAM will continue to strongly encourage Congress to advance legislation that will open trade and investment. Manufacturers are also committed to sharing with the Cuban people the values that make, and keep, America exceptional: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.
The NAM recently formed the Cuba Policy Working Group to look into legislative solutions, including lifting current trade and travel bans between the two countries; making it simpler for Americans to engage with Cuban citizens; and allowing companies and individuals in the United States to support the growth of private enterprise in Cuba.