Don’t expect too much change right away with Cuba, if you're hoping to do business there.
So says Amy Wilkinson, founder of a small exporting company and a former White House Fellow in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Wilkinson, author of The Creator's Code, recently spoke with Inc. about new developments in the nation island.
"Trade agreements take years to hammer out, it is not a quick fix," Wilkinson told Inc.'s Maria Aspan in a video interview (full clip above).
Late last week, President Obama issued an executive order that will reestablish diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba for the first time in more than half a century. That includes setting up an embassy in Havana and easing travel restrictions to and from Cuba, although leisure travel will continue to be embargoed. The order will also ease some export and import restrictions, as well as increase limits on money remittances to and from the country. U.S. financial institutions will be able to set up correspondent accounts in Cuban financial institutions, and travelers will now be able to use credit and debit cards in that country, among other things.
All of this, however, is predicated to some degree on Congressional overhaul of at least two acts that embargo trade with Cuba, which could be a tough slog in the coming year as Republicans assume control of both the House and Senate. One of the acts that would have to be mediated is the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which forbids any company in the U.S. from transacting with formerly owned U.S. businesses seized under the Castro regime in Cuba. Those businesses, and the other U.S.-owned property seized, are estimated to be worth $7 billion today.
Just as pressingly, Cuba isn't a capitalist country, and it lacks a structure to do open business there, experts in the region say, adding the economy is tightly controlled by the central government. The government, for example, chooses which investment opportunities businesses can partake in, and employees are chosen by administrative authorities.
Nevertheless, entrepreneurs who might see some of the earliest opportunities in
Cuba are those who work in tourism, including hotels, restaurants, and tour operators, Wilkinson says.
"Nothing will happen overnight," Wilkinson says.