President Donald Trump's reported efforts to reverse recent diplomatic and economic engagement with Cuba could cost the United States more than $6 billion and 12,000 jobs during his first term, a report released Thursday from a pro-Cuba advocacy group says.
Rural communities that depend heavily on agriculture, manufacturing and shipping — as well as Gulf states with deepwater ports nearby Cuba — would be disproportionately affected by policy changes, the report says. Voters in rural areas and many Gulf states voted overwhelmingly for Trump in November's election.
The analysis, prepared by the nonprofit group EngageCuba, showed that more than half of the estimated $6.6 billion in costs would hit the travel industry. Airlines, cruise ships and travel companies have been some of the biggest beneficiaries of the recent normalizing of relations after decades of strict embargo and sanctions that were in place since the Cold War.
The report comes as the Trump administration is undergoing a U.S.-Cuba policy review examining whether to keep in place steps his predecessor Barack Obama took via executive order to normalize relations with the island nation. Trump has come down on both sides of the issue in the past, but is said to be considering rolling back at least portions of the normalization as soon as this month.
"The recent amendments to U.S. Cuba regulations have catalyzed economic activity across the nation," the report says. "A reversal of these changes would result in a commercial slowdown and loss of thousands of jobs, even before induced effects are taken into account."
Trump is said to be weighing the change in an effort to please the politically conservative Cuban-American exile community. But in doing so, Trump may end up hurting key populations who were crucial to his victory.
A full rollback of Obama's policies would also affect more than 10,000 jobs in key industries over the next four years, the report says. It also notes that manufacturing companies that have commercial contracts on the island and money-transfer companies that process remittances sent to Cubans would bear a huge brunt of a reversal of the policies. American taxpayers, too, would also have to pay an estimated $953 million over four years if the restrictions on Cuba are put back into place.
James Williams, the president of EngageCuba, also noted that rolling back the executive orders would impose new regulations on American businesses rather than decrease them. Although the report was created by a group that supported normalizing of relations, it has the backing of several pro-business groups including the National Foreign Trade Council and the U.S.-Cuba Business Council.
"This would create, not eliminate arbitrary government red tape," Williams said. "Reimposing restrictions on traveling to Cuba would force Americans to jump through even more bureaucratic hoops to exercise their right to travel freely."