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Cuba Inc.? Not Quite

December 18, 2014

U.S. business and agriculture groups say the Obama administration took a huge leap forward with Wednesday’s historic Cuba policy change. But while chicken and rice exports may take off, don’t expect shiny new U.S.-made tractors and lumber to flood Havana anytime soon.

President Barack Obama’s executive action doesn’t fundamentally change the game, numerous industry sources say. The Cuban embargo and Cuban government remain formidable obstacles for U.S. products and financial transactions....

The new policy, which re-establishes diplomatic relations after a more-than-50-year freeze, allows U.S. companies to sell building materials for private residential construction, goods to help Cuban entrepreneurs build businesses and agricultural equipment for small farmers....

Christopher Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, said any changes to the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba are a no-go.

“You do actually have a pretty good cross-section of bipartisan groups that are in favor of changing the embargo,” he continued. “But the supporters of the embargo speak much more loudly and polished-ly and virulently then those who are against it.”

What will be key is to watch how regulators translate the White House’s words into policies, he said.

"A lot of the licensors and public officials will interpret this in the narrowest way possible,” Sabatini said. “Policy is boring, but it can be completely run off the rails by an uncooperative bureaucracy...."

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