What to Make of the Cuba Handshake
Posted: 12/12/2013 9:59 am
For as much as the media made of the handshake between President Obama
and Cuban President Raul Castro, it's not nearly as juicy as other
aspects of the U.S.-Cuba relationship.
The handshake itself is small potatoes. President Obama was right not to
have snubbed a handshake at a memorial for Nelson Mandela, which would
have turned into an even bigger story.
The reality is that there are much more important developments in the
U.S.-Cuba relationship, and strong potential for principled engagement
to further benefit the Cuban people and America's national interest.
As for the current situation, David Adams of Reuters reports that there
appears to be a new climate of pragmatism in the bilateral relationship
on issues ranging from granting asylum to Edward Snowden to resuming
direct mail service. In Bali last week, I watched as new World Trade
Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo deftly helped Cuba and the
United States work out a compromise in a business-like manner to smooth
passage of a major trade pact, which was characterized by less-caustic
rhetoric and without the kind of posturing than has historically been
associated with U.S.-Cuba interactions.
To the extent that a business-like atmosphere can persist between the
two countries, there are other areas where principled U.S. engagement
can achieve real results. In particular, further changes to U.S. policy
could help support the kinds of entrepreneurs and small businesses that
are emerging in Cuba. Beyond pursuing discrete bilateral talks on issues
like mail service and emergency response, further relaxing licensing
requirements for travel to Cuba could enable more Americans to support
entrepreneurs there. The administration could get even more creative,
licensing internet platforms and financial service and shipping
providers to offer Cuban entrepreneurs an opportunity to market and sell
their products to U.S. consumers.
While Congress has enacted laws that limit the ability to get rid of the
embargo in its entirety, the president has significant leeway under his
licensing authority to get creative to support the Cuban people.
Last month, in cooperation with the Center for Democracy in the
Americas, the National Foreign Trade Council hosted several Cuban
entrepreneurs, including the owner of a family-owned restaurant and the
owners of Nostalgicar, a Havana-based service that rents out classic
Chevys to visitors. Both of these businesses would benefit tremendously
from the increased flows of Americans that could result from more
purposeful trips to Cuba, and there are many others that would be
empowered by the kind of access to the global digital marketplace that
the United States could enable.
Source: "What to Make of the Cuba Handshake | Jake Colvin" -