This week, a Cuban trade delegation made up of high ranking government officials, are traveling to four states and six ports to brainstorm potential increased collaboration between the two nations, while the Trump administration is openly reconsidering the advances in economic cooperation made by the Obama administration. Trump has spoken on record about cancelling all recent moves to normalize relations unless he obtains “a better deal”, but so far has refrained from detailing what that better deal would entail.
Government officials in ports along the American south coast appear to be uniformly in favor of increased relations with Cuba, including both travel and trade. Several port authorities are expressing support for using Mariel, a small island off the northwest coast, as a shipping center for commerce between the Caribbean and Latin America to the United States. In an interview with Reuters, the president of the Engage Cuba Coalition, James Williams was quoted, “We’re hopeful that when the Trump Administration conducts a thorough review of US-Cuba policy, they will see how enhanced cooperation between our port terminals and the Port of Mariel, would be very beneficial to US export industries, US ports with access to Mariel’s shipping lanes and could create jobs across the country.”
US government officials from ports throughout America, stretching as far away as Norfolk, Virginia, have already visited Mariel along with top corporate executives to explore the possibly of using the island as a transshipment hub. Its convenient location would allow greater access to markets throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, allowing for increased exports and more jobs throughout ports here in America as traffic picks up.
In an effort to roll back the embargo which has been in place for fifty years and has had questionable impacts in achieving its goals (undermining the communist regime through economic isolation), Obama met with Raul Castro in November, 2014 to work towards normalizing relations. As sitting president, he issued executive orders to ease some regulations on travel and business between both nations. However, these executive orders can be reversed by Trump at his discretion, and the official embargo can only be lifted by US Congress, which is controlled by Republicans – the party which is widely known to be more against normalizing relations.
The Cuban trade delegation, made up of executives from the new shipping terminal at Mariel and officials involved in cruise ship and investment trade, is on track to enter a non-binding cooperation agreement with some major American ports during a visit to Washington at the end of the month. The Cuban government has thus far avoided criticizing Trump, downplaying large protests worldwide against him in state-run media – likely because they realize his actions will ultimately decide whether this agreement will hold. Popular Cuban businesses including hotels and restaurants have seen a huge increase in traffic and revenue, largely thanks to the uptick in American tourism, so they realize the benefits increased relations with America could bring to the island.