The Houston business community saw their hopes for tapping Cuba’s markets for new opportunities snuffed on Friday when President Trump announced his policy toward the former cold-war foe. Trump spoke in Miami’s Manuel Artime Theater in Little Havana.
Following his speech, President Trump signed an executive order intended to restrict U.S. business dealings in Cuba and tighten the recently relaxed travel policies that have allowed Americans to more easily tour the country.
In his speech, he characterized the move as “canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.”
Laura Murillo, President and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told The Houston Chronicle that Trump’s new policy is “a huge setback” to capitalizing on the opportunities she saw while touring Cuba as part of a business delegation.
Houston could have profited from expanded business dealings with the island, which has struggled economically during the 56-year trade embargo. If trade is opened, businesses could thrive in the thirsty markets.
The Washington Post reported that Trump’s executive order does not provide the actual policies that he would enforce; instead, the order directs the U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce to create new regulations on Cuba to replace the loosened policies introduced by President Obama in 2014.
Cubans who live and work in the tourist areas of the island expressed that they believed they would suffer if American tourists are no longer able to visit the island. While travel was still restricted under President Obama, his policies made it easier for individual Americans to visit Cuba if their trip was related to education, religion, professional conferences or sports.
As the U.S. pulls away from business dealings with Cuba, Russia and China are stepping in to fill the gap, building an economic relationship that could benefit all three nations.
Trump’s new policies maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba.