Cuba and the U.S.: A Tale of Two Countries

Jul 21, 15 Cuba and the U.S.: A Tale of Two Countries

Posted by in Latin America

By George L. San Jose, president and chief operating officer of The San Jose Network. For the first time in over 50 years, the United States and Cuba are formally reestablishing diplomatic ties, leaving implications for American businesses seeking to expand their markets. The Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. opened its doors on July 20, but what does that mean for companies looking to reach those 11 million consumers? The growing relationship between the U.S. and Cuba signals significant pending opportunities for American businesses. Beginning with the acceptance of American credit cards, cellular service, and now with embassies opening in both countries and the introduction of new travel regulations, we see only the first steps preempting the inevitable: the trade embargo will soon be lifted. The historical move could create 6,000 American jobs and add between $1.2 and $4.8 billion annually to the U.S. economy. As with any new opportunity, market knowledge, speed to market, and infrastructural/distribution understanding will decide success or failure in the pursuit of market share growth. Brands that start planning now will get the first chance to reach 11 million consumers. Before now, Cuba has never been targeted. In December, President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that they were working together to lift the trade restrictions. Over the past eight months, The San Jose Network has utilized external and internal resources to explore the potential of the Cuban market, encouraged by the preliminary findings and developmental changes occurring weekly. There is no doubt that Cuba poses a great opportunity across many industries, sectors and categories. Yet, we have to proceed with caution and move in parallel fashion with the legalization in commerce between our two countries. Even with the economic embargo still in place, the U.S. and Cuba have found their way around some trade restrictions. In fact, after the U.S. exported food to Cuba after a 2001 hurricane, the U.S. continued to export some food supplies to the island, and now the U.S. is Cuba’s second-largest food supplier. In 2008, annual food sales...

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