For the first time since the United States first imposed an embargo against Cuba, trade restrictions between the two countries have been loosened. President Obama’s administration has eased the constraints on relations with Cuba over the past several years and will look to continue to do so throughout 2017
U.S. President Barack Obama shaking hands with Raul Castro of Cuba. This was the first meeting between the heads of the two countries since 1961. http://www.cfr.org/cuba/us-cuba-relations/p11113
Prior to this movement by President Obama, heavy trade restrictions were to remain on Cuba until the island made progress in human rights and democratization. This stipulation was put in place by the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and was further enforced by Bill Clinton during his time in office. While Obama believes that the changes made in trade policy will help to propel Cubans forward, many disagree and feel as though they will actually aid the government that is holding them back.
President Obama’s decision has “paved the way for American companies to do business in Cuba, granting over 490 authorizations amounting to $4.3 billion last year alone – a roughly 30% increase over the previous year.” This has been possible because of the removal of “major impediments to contact between the United States and Cuba” such as the lifting of “restrictions on American financing of exports to the island nation,” and the relaxing of “limits on the shipping of an array of products, from tractors to art supplies.”
These new opportunities have done much to normalize relations between America and Cuba as even goods that could potentially help the Cuban government can now be reviewed as potential exports. Opening trade with Cuba was something that many Americans and Cubans never thought would happen, and while the economic benefits are well documented, many disagree with the timeliness of the movement.
One of the main critiques of Obama’s relaxed trade restrictions was that Cuba has not yet made the necessary moves spelled out in the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992. “American officials said they continued to have concerns about Cuba’s human rights record, including limits on political expression.” This is an issue for many, including Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council. In a statement regarding this topic, he said, “we urge the Cuban government to make it easier for its citizens to start businesses, engage in trade and access information online.”
This speaks to the constrictions that are still placed on the people of Cuba by their government. Cuba’s communist system has ruled since 1959 and has controlled all aspects of Cuban life. When asked about the new trade possibilities, Senator Robert Menendez said that they would “do nothing to empower the Cuban people” and would instead provide “their oppressors the resources they need to tighten their grip.” As a son of two Cuban immigrants, his opinion is one that should be taken very seriously when examining this topic.
Maintaining the trade embargo with Cuba could have given the United States more leverage in forcing the nation to establish improved human rights and to open their political system. That being said, ending the trade embargo with Cuba will provide both countries with significant benefits. First of all, the United States economy will benefit from billions of dollars of new revenue from exports to the island. American markets will also be energized with new products to import and new foreign industries to invest in. Also, it will provide Cuban citizens with access to modern technologies, more options for food, and countless other goods that will increase the quality of living on the island exponentially. According to a study done by the American Association for World Health, Cuban doctors have access to under 50% of the drugs on the world’s market. Ending the trade embargo will provide major improvements to these issues.
I believe that ending the trade embargo with Cuba will be an overwhelming success for both countries involved. Opening trade with Cuba will provide its citizens with new and amazing goods and services that will thrust them forward. This will in turn promote democracy as the isolation of the island continues to dissipate and its people continue to be exposed to the cultures of the world. The economies of the United States and Cuba will grow and the people will be exposed to new and exiting opportunities.