New Survey Illustrates U.S. Travelers' Engagement with Cuba's Private Sector

By: Cuba Journal

“This survey proves that American travel to Cuba is empowering the Cuban people by supporting the Island’s growing private sector, which is fueled by foreign travelers. Not only are Americans monetarily supporting Cuban entrepreneurs, but they’re engaging in conversations about U.S. culture and values, internet and technology, and religious freedom. While American travel to Cuba is booming, it’s still illegal to visit our island neighbor as a tourist. It’s time Congress removes this arbitrary restriction to further support Cuban entrepreneurs and the American people. – James Williams, President of Engage Cuba. U.S. travelers are economically supporting state workers, who rely on tips to survive, and offering generous support to Cuban individuals and humanitarian projects. Furthermore, they are talking to average Cubans about free market economics at a moment of economic reform.

Engage Cuba Applauds Marshall's Stance

“Opening up trade with Cuba would strengthen Kansas agribusiness, which is an economic driver and job creator across the state. Kansas is a top U.S. exporter of agriculture goods and the largest wheat producer in the country. Kansas farmers should be allowed to compete in emerging Cuban markets without arbitrary government red tape,” said President of Engage Cuba, James Williams. “After 55 years of failed policy, it’s time for a change that benefits Kansans and the Cuban people. We applaud Marshall for advocating to make it easier for Kansas farmers to sell to a market only 90 miles away.”

Marco Rubio: ‘Trump will treat Cuba like the dictatorship it is’

Miami Herald

By: Nora Gámez Torres

U.S. companies doing business with Cuba also have been sending messages to the Trump administration in support of a pro-business agenda. “With the new administration’s desire to grow our economy, we are hopeful that both governments will continue the momentum to work to open the door for commerce to flourish between our two countries,” said Vanessa Picariello, Norwegian Cruise senior director of public relations. “Business and civic leaders from the American Farm Bureau, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Republican members of Congress also have been encouraging President Trump to shake up our failed embargo policy with Cuba,” said James Williams, director of Engage Cuba, a coalition of businesses and organizations lobbying to eliminate economic sanctions to Cuba. “President Trump can create billions of dollars in trade and tens of thousands of American jobs by expanding trade with Cuba.” Letters in support of the current pro-engagement policy have been sent to the Trump administration by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Catholic Church leaders, the American Farm Bureau, Cuban-American organizations like the Cuba Study Group and members of Congress like Minnesota Republican Rep. Tom Emmer, who has submitted a bill to lift the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

 

Moran Hopes to Lift Trade Restrictions with Cuba Despite Trump Rhetoric

Kansas City Star

By: Bryan Lowry

President Barack Obama made moves to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba during the final two years of his presidency. Trump has floated the possibility of rolling back some of Obama’s reforms, saying on Twitter in November that he would “terminate the deal” if Cuba was unwilling to negotiate a better deal. James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a national group pushing to expand trade with Cuba, said Moran’s bill could “give the president more space to enter into negotiations, which we all know he loves to do.” He said the idea was gaining momentum in the business community and questioned that Trump would stand in its way. “You’re talking about a $2 billion agriculture market that could be available to American producers with the stroke of the pen,” Williams said. Moran said Wednesday that his legislation’s best chance to advance is probably as an amendment to another bill. He also pushed back on the notion that Trump would necessarily be a bigger obstacle than previous presidents. “Dealings with Cuba have been controversial and challenging under every administration,” Moran said. “This administration has indicated they’re going to review the policy and start from scratch.” 

Congressman Believes US Entrepreneurs can “Help Shape” Reform in Cuba

Marti Noticias

The American politician indicated that "Cuba is a fertile ground for the American investors.” In the 45-minute teleconference that Mr. Crawford spoke to was James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, who is seeking an end to the US embargo on the island. Crawford promoted legislation in the US Congress last January, Law 525, known as the Agricultural Exports Act to Cuba , whose main objective is the North American agricultural export to the island, as well as the delivery of credits to Cuban clients . However, the project has encountered strong opposition among Cuban-American congressmen in Miami. Last February, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp and Republican John Boozman again introduced the bill for the Expansion of Agricultural Exports , the first one related to Cuba that comes after Donald Trump's arrival at the White House. Currently, US companies are prohibited from offering credit to Cuban entities because of the US embargo on the island, in force since 1960.

Cuba: Hopes too High, too Soon?

News 10 TV

By: Jerry Revish

Washington is not much help either. Hard-liners on Capitol Hill and those who want to end the trade embargo remain in a tug of war over the future of U.S. relations with the largest island in the Caribbean. “There are a number of bills that have been introduced in Congress to end all or parts of the embargo but are not likely to get much traction. Until that happens, the U.S. airlines continue to take Americans down in fairly good numbers, but not in the numbers that some had hoped,” says Luis Alcalde. A trade mission to Cuba is being planned by a group called Engage Cuba. It’s a national coalition of private companies, organizations and local leaders with a goal of getting the 55-year-old embargo lifted. The trade mission will focus on agriculture and according to organizers, there should be a good representation from Ohio agri-business for the trip planned for July 5-9. Ohio grows in abundance a couple crops that Cuba can’t: Corn and soybeans. Ohio farmers would love nothing more than to get a foothold in a new market for their products. I’ll keep you posted on its progress.

Sen. Moran Introduces Legislation to Restore Trade with Cuba

Cherokee County News-Advocate

Nearly 150 U.S. organizations have voiced their strong support for commonsense reforms to U.S.-Cuba relations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Wheat Growers, Engage Cuba and the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC): "Kansas wheat producers understand that the best way to reverse the downward trend in the Kansas ag economy is to increase trade and expand market opportunities," said Dickinson County, Kan., farmer and President of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers Ken Wood. "Opening up the Cuban market to Kansas wheat and other agricultural products would provide a much needed export boost at a time when we need to create more demand. We are thankful that Senator Moran is leading the charge for Kansas farmers and commend him for reintroducing this common-sense legislation." "Sen. Moran's legislation would roll back job-killing regulations that are hurting Kansas' economy and the Cuban people," said Engage Cuba President James Williams.

Moran Bill Hopes to Address Cuban Embardo

St. Joseph News Press

The senator framed the introduction of this bill in economic terms. Last year, he pointed out, Kansas had historic yields in wheat, corn and other grains, but its producers suffered from low commodity prices. More markets translate to increased prices for American farmers, Moran said. “We need to be able to indicate to our farmers that hope is in the works in global markets,” the Kansan said. “That is particularly true for an agricultural state like ours where, again, 95 percent of the consumers live some place outside the United States.” Kansas has begun a state council as part of a national coalition called Engage Cuba, through which private companies and organizations work to end the trade embargo placed on that nation. The president of Engage Cuba, James Williams, praised Moran’s legislation. “As a top U.S. exporter of agriculture goods and the largest wheat producer in the country, opening up trade with Cuba would allow Kansas agribusiness, which is an economic driver and job creator across the state, to significantly increase exports to a $2 billion neighboring market,” he said.

Engage Cuba Kansas State Council Applauds Sen. Moran for Introducing Bill to Lift Cuban Embargo

High Plains Journal

"Sen. Moran's legislation would roll back job-killing regulations that are hurting Kansas' economy and the Cuban people. As a top U.S. exporter of agriculture goods and the largest wheat producer in the country, opening up trade with Cuba would allow Kansas agribusiness, which is an economic driver and job creator across the state, to significantly increase exports to a $2 billion neighboring market," said President of Engage Cuba, James Williams. "After 55 years of failure, it's time for a change. We applaud Sen. Moran for his leadership on ensuring that Kansas businesses and farmers can compete in emerging Cuban markets." On Sept 19, 2016, Engage Cuba launched the Engage Cuba Kansas State Council comprised of top Kansas agriculture and business leaders. The council seeks to lift the travel and trade ban in order to allow Kansas farmers to regain lost market share in Cuba and support the Island's growing private sector.

Moran Taking Another Swing at Cuba

Politico

By: Jenny Hopkinson

James Williams, president of Engage Cuba and one of the leading advocates for restoring trade with the communist nation, remains optimistic. It’s up to Congress to end the embargo, but it’s something that Trump should want if he is serious about being able to negotiate a better deal with Cuba, Williams said Monday. Williams likes the chances for Moran’s bill and Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer’s companion in the House (H.R. 442), but said he believes Congress is more likely to move forward with smaller-scale measures that are widely supported, such as the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act (H.R. 525). That bill, introduced in early January by Rep. Rick Crawford, would make it easier to offer credit to Cuban buyers of U.S. agricultural goods. A companion measure (S. 275) was introduced in February by Sens. John Boozman and Heidi Heitkamp.

Senate Bill Aims to Lift US Blockade on Cuba to Open Markets

Telesur

U.S. Republican Senator Jerry Moran introduced a bill in Congress to effectively lift the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by Washington against Cuba, in an effort to open up agricultural markets for his home state of Kansas.

The proposal, dubbed the Trade Act with Cuba, would repeal or amend legislation that makes up parts of the blockade, including the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996, and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000.

"Sen. Moran's legislation would roll back job-killing regulations that are hurting Kansas' economy and the Cuban people," said James Williams, the president of Engage Cuba, which is a coalition of big businesses that are against the blockade on Cuba for their own profit motives.

The list of members includes Viacom, Honeywell, Comcast/NBC Universal and others seeking to open up Cuban markets for their products.

"As a top U.S. exporter of agricultural goods and the largest wheat producer in the country, opening up trade with Cuba would allow Kansas agribusiness, which is an economic driver and job creator across the state, to significantly increase exports to a (US)$2 billion neighboring markets," he added. "After 55 years of failure, it's time for a change."

In his second term in office, Obama announced the beginning of negotiations with the Cuban government to reestablish diplomatic ties and begin the path to normalizing relations between the two countries, in a sign of the United States' failed attempt at choking the socialist country into submission.

According to a report given by the Cuban government at the U.N. General Assembly, the U.S. blockade costs the island nation US$4.7 billion in 2016 and a staggering US$753 billion since it began almost six decades ago.

At the U.N. General Assembly in 2016, 191 of the 193 of the nations voted to condemn the blockade, as the majority have done for several decades. The difference in 2016 being that the U.S. and Israel abstained from voting for the first time, marking a departure from continuously voted against it.

Now with the Trump administration overturning many Obama-era laws, vowing to review all acts regarding Cuba, it is possible that the U.S. will return to a hard line toward Cuba and abandon its softer approach to regime change in the revolutionary nation.

Cuba's Nascent Tech Industry is Growing Fast

Salon

By: Angelo Young

Tres Mares Group, a Miami-based private equity investment firm that follows business activity in Cuba, estimates that about 3,000 Cubans currently work as freelancers in the local knowledge economy — many of them doing work for companies in Canada and Spain — and as many as 50,000 qualified university-trained computer science engineers are sitting on the bench, unable to fully utilize their skills. Most of these computer science degree holders are graduates of the University Campus José Antonio Echeverría (CUJAE by its Spanish acronym) or the Universidad de Ciencias Informáticas, which is often compared to MIT. On the U.S. side, companies are also starting to pay more attention to the potential pool of Cuban talent. “There are at least a half dozen firms [in the U.S.] who are working with Cuban coders and programmers already,” James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a Washington D.C. nonprofit coalition of private companies working to normalize U.S.-Cuban relations, told Salon. “The challenge is that since we’re in this new period, they’re not promoting these activities yet and keeping them quiet until this becomes more normalized and routine. But it’s something that’s already happening.”

Cuba's Quiet Battle for American Airspace

OZY

New legislation may provide a fresh impetus: The Cuba Trade Act would permit private-sector industries to trade freely with Cuba, effectively lifting the embargo. “For 55 years, the Cuban embargo has failed,” says James Williams, the head of the nonprofit Engage Cuba. “The notion that it will work in year 56 is the definition of insanity.”

If the bill passes — and Trump doesn’t veto it — look for that distinctive Cubana livery on a vintage plane landing soon at an airport near you.

Engage Cuba pide a Trump seguir la política de Obama con Cuba

Martí Noticias

Engage Cuba, una coalición a favor del fin del embargo de Estados Unidos hacia la isla, invitó a Tillerson a "perseguir políticas de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba que apoyen el crecimiento en el sector privado cubano, crear oportunidades para las empresas estadounidenses y fortalecer nuestro interés nacional en la región".

James Williams, presidente de Engage Cuba, aseguró en la carta que los cambios de regulación de EE.UU. "han ayudado a consolidar el sector privado creciente de Cuba". Williams invitó al secretario Tillerson a tener en consideración la revisión de dicha política y a reunirse con empresarios cubanos para "entender mejor" su dinámica.

Anti-Castro Cuban-American Lawmakers See a Champion in Trump

The Daily Progress

By: Gisela Salomon

During the presidential campaign, Trump was critical of the opening with the Castro government and said Obama wasn't paying enough attention to human rights on the island. He promised to re-evaluate the agreements with Cuba and cancel those he doesn't believe serve U.S. interests. He named several anti-Castro Cuban-Americans to his transition team, but has not yet said publicly whether he intends to reverse specific policies of his predecessor. Some supporters of the opening with Cuba see reason for optimism. James Williams, head of Engage Cuba, a corporate-backed bipartisan group that supports improving ties to the island, said Trump may not want to reverse what he sees as the "positive progress" of the last three years. "We have seen more positive progress in Cuba over the last two years than the last 55 years combined," said Williams, adding that a thorough review of current policy should show the Trump administration the advantages of moving toward normalization.