The Quiet Optimism in the American Business Community

Cuba Business Report

There’s a quiet optimism in the American business
community in spite of what President-elect Donald
Trump might or might not do as far as the Cuban-
American relationship goes. Nobody is certain if he will
step back in time and reverse the progress made or, follow
a more pragmatic approach. However, some of the Cuba
experts we spoke to agreed there’s a quiet optimism in
the business community, a cautious optimism, if you will.
This optimism can be seen by the increase in trademark
registration at the OCPI of􀃡ce in Cuba by American
companies and the current push for contract agreements
with Cuba by Google and General Electric (GE) before
Trump enters office in January.
We decided to pose a couple of questions to some of the
leading experts involved in the US-Cuba relationship
and/or advancing business interests in Cuba. We had a
chat with James Williams of Engage Cuba in Washington,
Felix Chevalier of the Chevalier Law firm in Texas, and
Judy Kruger of Kruger-International in Michigan to get
their feedback on the current mood of the business
community.
The questions we decided to ask these experts were as
follows:
1. Based on the (undeniable) continuing interest of
American business and AG groups in doing business
with Cuba and the increase of American trademark
registrations with Cuba’s OCPI of􀃤ce, do you think
there’s a “quiet optimism” in the U.S. business
community?
2. Do you think the U.S. President-elect will actually
turn back the hands of time?
In speaking with Judy Kruger, Cuba growth strategist at
Kruger-International, she outlined her take on the
reasons for this optimism in business. She said, “there’s
continued interest in doing business with Cuba because
this is not the time to stall out on good efforts. Recent
and significant game changers that are good for U.S.-Cuba
business.”
Ms Kruger also saw Fidel Castro’s passing as relieving
Cuba from its hard line against making concession with
the U.S. She said, “In the past few years, President Raul
Castro has been a softer and more approachable leader.
This is evidenced by the generous incentives and new
foreign investment laws that have passed under Raul’s
leadership.”
Like many she believes the “next likely president of Cuba
is Miguel Canal-Diaz who is known to be tech-savvy and
business friendly.” Ms Kruger said, “no doubt there will
be changes when President Castro retires from his
leadership position.”
Ms Kruger also said, “that President-elect Trump’s
continued harsh dialogue is shaking US-Cuba relations up
and this may be a very good thing to push pass stalled
agreements between the countries. Trump is known as an
astute business man and will perhaps be perceived as
leading businesses to Cuba, not away from Cuba. This
may involve some unique regulatory changes that 􀃤t
Trump’s style.”
She concluded by saying, “there’s an attraction factor to
Cuba unlike any other emerging country. That won’t stop
and companies ahead of the game will get a larger slice of
the pie.”
We also spoke with Houston attorney Felix Chevalier,
who advises U.S. companies seeking to enter the Cuban
market. He described his clients as cautiously optimistic.
“My clients are cautiously optimistic, but still vocal in
their support of lifting the trade and travel embargo.
There are entire US industries that can grow by entering
the Cuban market. Companies, political leaders and trade
associations will continue lobby the new administration
and Congress to not only continue the ongoing
negotiations with Cuba, but to also work towards
normalized relations.
Mr Chevalier also said, “Clawing back all of the
advancements that we’ve made in US-Cuba relations may
be easier said than done. President-elect Trump has been
very vocal on the subject of human rights in Cuba, but
he is business man who is also looking to strengthen
trade agreements and boost the U.S. economy. Hopefully
he’ll support opportunities for US businesses to expand
into the Cuban market and while seeking ways to improve
human rights.”
Speaking on the same issues, James Williams of Engage
Cuba said, “We have witnessed a strong optimism in the
business community across the country. Just yesterday,
we saw the announcement of two new cruise lines —
Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line —
that are planning to sail to Cuba next year. We’re also
enthused by the robust support from American
agriculture to open a market 90 miles off our shore. And
just last week, several major U.S. airlines began direct
􀃥ights into Havana, signaling their long-term
commitment to operate in the country. Mr. Trump, a
businessman, has long recognized the economic bene􀃤ts
of engaging with Cuba. No business in the world,
including a Trump company, would continue to pursue a
strategy that has failed for 55 years, and I would imagine
that Mr. Trump would expect nothing less from the U.S.
government.”
Thank you to Judy Kruger, Felix Chevalier and James
Williams for speaking with us.