Only Congress can officially lift the United States' embargo and travel ban on Cuba. But the Obama administration's decision to normalize diplomatic relations with the communist nation offers some potential opportunities for U.S. businesses:
1. More Americans traveling to Cuba
General licenses for travel to Cuba have been expanded to 12 different categories, including such areas as "support for the Cuban people" that could pretty much allow any American to visit Cuba. U.S. financial institutions will also be permitted to open correspondent accounts at their Cuba peers, so Americans traveling to Cuba will now be able use their credit and debit cards there, too. They'll even be able to each take back $400 worth of Cuban goods, including up to $100 in alcohol and cigars. Because the travel ban is not entirely lifted, travel businesses could have a great opportunity to help curious U.S. citizens plan Cuban vacations.
2. Business consulting opportunities
The travel expansion allows U.S. citizens to provide business training to private Cuban businesses and small farmers. "Americans will also be able to provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector," according to a White House statement.
3. More chances to export
The Obama administration announcement includes an expansion of allowed exports that includes "certain building materials for private residential construction, goods for use by private-sector Cuban entrepreneurs, and agricultural equipment for small farmers," according to a fact sheet on the arrangement.
"This change will make it easier for Cuban citizens to have access to certain lower-priced goods to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state," the Obama administration said.
4. Telecommunications opportunities
The Obama administration is allowing U.S. telecommunications providers to establish infrastructure and other necessary mechanisms to provide commercial telecommunications and Internet services in Cuba.
Business opportunities may seem modest for now, but some estimates show a $21 billion trade opportunity in the first five years if Congress lifts the embargo, according to New Orleans’ Times-Picayune.
"Should Cuba open its doors to us, cruise ships could start heading to Cuba and use New Orleans as a homeport," Port of New Orleans President and CEO Gary LaGrange told the newspaper.
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