American Trade and Tourism Groups Pre-empt Trump's Reported Restrictions on Cuba with Economic Memo

Independent Journal Review

A pro-trade and anti-Cuban embargo organization released a memo Thursday illustrating the potential economic impact of chilling U.S.-Cuba relations, pre-empting the Trump administration's expected decision to resume restrictions previously lifted by President Obama.

In the memo — co-signed by the American Chamber of Commerce, the National Foreign Trade Council, Pearl Seas Cruises, and several others — Engage Cuba says reinstating restrictions on Cuba “could cost U.S. businesses and taxpayers $6.6 billion over the course of the president’s first term.” Reinstating Cold War-era trade restrictions, they said, could affect more than 12,000 American jobs.

Engage Cuba President James Williams said in a statement that reimposing trade restrictions on the communist country “directly conflicts with President Trump's campaign promises of removing onerous regulations and red tape on U.S. businesses.”

“How sadly ironic and short-sighted it would be if, soon after singing the praises of the repressive leaders of Russia, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, President Trump were to return to a failed 55-year-old policy of sanctions and ultimatums against tiny Cuba,” U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), a co-sponsor of the bipartisan Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, said in a statement:

“Rather than cave to the pressure of a dwindling minority who are stuck in the past, he should go to Cuba and speak directly with the Cuban people on behalf of the overwhelming majority of Americans who favor closer relations. He would see that the current policy has given the Cuban people real hope for a better future, a future that is naturally linked to the United States and the American people.”

A majority of potential revenue lost, according to the memo, would be from restrictions to air travel. Currently, seven major American airline companies operate in Cuba. The organizations estimate nearly $2 billion will be lost during the president's first term if their business is put to a halt.

The memo comes after reports suggesting the United States will roll back newly-warmed relations with Cuba. The Obama administration instituted several changes related to U.S.-Cuban relations, lifting certain travel restrictions to Cuba and certain sanctions against cigars and alcohol. They also ended the “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” immigration policy and reopened the American Embassy in Havana.

Though there is strong support from the Republicans in Congress and agency heads to preserve the Obama administration's policies, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) — all Cuba hardliners — have reportedly steered the Trump administration towards rolling back the ease in sanctions.

The exact alterations to current policies are still unknown, but could include restrictions on “banking, people to people exchanges, cigars and rum, and other measures,” NBC News reports.

The president is expected to announce changes at a campaign-style event in Miami later this month. According to NBC News, Trump will cite human rights abuses as the reason for the renewed restrictions.