The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it “welcomes” President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States and Cuba will start to normalize relations.
Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue said the “U.S. business community welcomes today’s announcement, and has long supported many of the economic provisions the president touched on in his remarks.”
“We deeply believe that an open dialogue and commercial exchange between the U.S. and Cuban private sectors will bring shared benefits, and the steps announced today will go a long way in allowing opportunities for free enterprise to flourish,” he added. “In countries around the world, where leaders from across the political spectrum have made a concerted effort to liberalize their economy, we have seen a sharp rise in the quality of life of their citizens.”
Obama announced on Wednesday that the United States “will begin to normalize relations between our two countries” and declared that, “it’s time for a new approach.”
The U.S. will establish an embassy in Cuba and ease restrictions on travel, trade, banking, remittances, exports, and imports. For instance, licensed U.S. travelers will be allowed “to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined.”
Donohue said that “the Chamber and its members stand ready to assist as the Cuban people work to unleash the power of free enterprise to improve their lives.”
“As we witnessed on our exploratory trip to Havana earlier this year, Cuba has changed some of its economic policies to lessen government control or ownership of Cuban businesses, and subsequently, their private sector is growing,” he concluded. “There is still work to do, on both sides of this relationship, but the changes outlined today are a substantive and positive step forward. It is imperative that the Cuban government build on today’s positive steps with a more ambitious economic reform agenda at home, while we continue to push for the end of the embargo here in Washington.”
Obama made the announcement after the Cuban government released Alan Gross, a contractor for the United States Agency for for International Development (USAID) who had been in a Cuban prison for the last five years after being accused of espionage. In a separate transaction, a U.S. intelligence asset (a Cuban national) in Cuba who had been jailed for nearly 20 years was released in exchange for three Cuban spies that he helped capture in the 1990s.