Cutting off commercial and diplomatic ties with Cuba would hurt the U.S. economy and threaten thousands of jobs, according to a report released Thursday.
Engage Cuba, an anti-embargo advocacy group, estimates that completely rolling back former President Barack Obama’s historic rapprochement with Cuba would cost the economy $6.6 billion and affect 12,295 American jobs over the course of President Trump’s first term in office.
"Our new relationship with Cuba has led to tangible results for American companies, created U.S. jobs, and strengthened Cuba's growing private sector,” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba.
“If President Trump rolled back our Cuba policy, he would add job-killing government regulations on U.S. businesses. This directly conflicts with President Trump's campaign promises of removing onerous regulations and red tape on U.S. businesses.”
The report comes as the White House weighs taking a harder line on Cuba, with a decision expected in the coming weeks on how the new administration will approach the communist government.
Trump is facing intense pressure from Cuba hard-liners in Congress to scale back Obama’s policies, but there are divisions in the administration about what to do, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The Obama administration carried out a string of regulatory actions aimed at easing trade and travel restrictions with Cuba, which has been widely popular with the U.S. business community and a growing number of GOP lawmakers.
Embassies in Havana and Washington reopened, and the U.S. removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terror while resuming commercial air service with the island for the first time in more than 50 years.
A number of U.S. businesses have already jumped at the new opportunity with Cuba. Seven U.S. airlines now fly direct to Cuba; AirBnb, Expedia and TripAdvisor offer services on the island; and the four major U.S. telecommunications providers now offer roaming there.
Anti-embargo advocates are hoping to ramp up pressure on the administration to keep the current regulations in place by highlighting the economic benefits of continued engagement with Cuba, playing to Trump’s pro-business campaign platform.
The report predicts that manufacturing, tourism, farming and shipping industries would be damaged the most by a reversal in Cuba policy.
The airline sector alone would lose nearly $2 billion in revenue and 4,000 jobs over four years.
The states that would be hit hardest by a Cuba rollback are those with deepwater ports and those close to Cuba, including Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.
The analysis is based on the assumption that the entire U.S. regulatory regime toward Cuba would be reversed, including legalized travel, expanded remittances and the end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy toward Cubans.
The memo is signed by a number of business and travel groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Cuba Business Council, the American Society of Travel Agents and Cuba Educational Travel.
“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," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) 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.”