As tens of thousands of euphoric Cubans greet President Obama and his family in Havana on March 21, the President will be doing more than solidifying a new era in U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations. He also will be inaugurating what has the potential to become a mutually beneficial trade and business partnership – an enterprise that, given sufficient time, will spur jobs and growth in both countries.

Realizing this potential, however, has two imperatives. First and foremost, the U.S. Congress must end the disastrous trade embargo that has served only to hurt the Cuban people, hamstring American companies and undercut our reputation and credibility throughout the world. Second, U.S. private and public leaders must recognize that this new dynamic is very much a two-way street. The U.S.-fueled acrimony that has characterized our bilateral relationship must be replaced with one attribute prized by the Cuban people: mutual respect.

Congress’ refusal to sweep aside the last vestiges of the embargo has made trade with Cuba a one-way boon for foreign companies, many of which stand to realize substantial profits from increased U.S. travel alone. Until this myopic boycott is ended, U.S. businesses will continue to be handcuffed; an unfortunate reality that will hurt multiple sectors of our economy – from travel, tourism, hospitality, and transportation to agriculture, medical products, telecommunications, and technology.

Commentary published by CNBC. Read the entire article here.

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Cuba needs capital investment to fuel emerging industries and to help build competitive infrastructures. The embargo’s continuing restrictions on partnerships with Cuban entities in many sectors impede such investment and frustrate U.S. policy goals rather than advance them.

Will the Obama Administration’s new rules open the floodgates to Cuba for American business next month or even next year? No. Full and fair free trade with Cuba won’t happen until Congress finally repeals Helms-Burton, the myopic and failed U.S. trade embargo.

To be sure, the new regulatory amendments put forth this month are an important and necessary step in the right direction. Building on the Administration’s historic first round of amendments relaxing embargo restrictions in January, the September changes create the most significant opening in decades for Americans seeking to do business in Cuba.

American business executives contemplating opportunities in the Cuban marketplace would do well to study the regulations in the wake of these revisions. They should understand the full potential breadth of the regulatory windows that have been created, as well as identify for themselves and U.S. policymakers and regulators those issues ripe for further regulatory change.

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Ironically, while the long-overdue thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations has encouraged and even accelerated foreign investment in Cuba, the vast majority of U.S. businesses, still shackled by the embargo on Cuba, cannot compete in that marketplace.  This is not about leveling the playing field for American companies; it is about just letting them onto the field.

The embargo is a vestige of an archaic foreign policy. Arguably, it was a failed policy from the get-go, accomplishing nothing except to deepen the suffering of average Cubans who themselves had little or no participation in the political activities that rankled the U.S. for six decades.

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