Tallahassee Journal

U.S. businesses eye new opportunities in Cuba

U.S. businesses eye new opportunities in Cuba

Jay Brickman envisions a day when the company he works for freely trades with Cuban entrepreneurs and the Cuban government without restrictions or crippling regulations. But that day is still a speck on the horizon despite President Obama’s announcement last month on plans to normalize U.S. relations with the island nation.635566547241061714-gruber-cuba

“It’s an extraordinarily important first step but it really is just a first step,” said Brickman, vice president of government services for Crowley Maritime Corp., a Jacksonville, Fla.-based container and shipping company that already does some business in Cuba. “The embargo is still there. That continues to restrict a lot of things that can be done.” Crowley joins a myriad of other U.S. businesses — from telecommunications giants to building suppliers to poultry and rice farmers — keen on doing business in Cuba. Yet they say the main obstacle is the half-century-old economic embargo on Cuba, which only Congress can lift.

Some groups — mostly in the agricultural sector — plan to push the new Republican-led Congress to dismantle the embargo. Others are waiting for Cuba to loosen control of its own economy and the U.S. to issue new rules of commerce. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the new Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently said the embargo hadn’t yielded the intended results — regime change in Cuba, increased civil liberties — and warned the issue will spark heated debate on Capitol Hill.