The U.S. International Trade Commission has rendered its verdict on Cuba: The market is ripe for U.S. business.
In a study released this week, the commission said that as relations between the U.S. and Cuba normalize, U.S.-manufactured goods would benefit from an embargo lift.
While there is still a decades-old embargo on Cuba covering everything from footwear to technology, President Barack Obama has urged for changes in recent years. He’s eased some travel bans, telecommunications restrictions and made a historic state visit there last month. Only Congress can vote to lift the trade embargo.
According to the USITC study, Cuba mostly imports food and medical supplies from the U.S. (which aren’t covered under the embargo), but there is an opportunity for footwear. The commission was asked by the Senate’s finance committee to examine the impact of the current trade relations and future normalization between the two countries. The study covered 2005-14.
The commission said that should the U.S. lift its embargo, leather product sales and trade (which includes footwear, as well as handbags and luggage) would increase to at least $900,000. Should Cuba also lift its trade barrier, then leather product imports could top $1.1 million.
Overall, the study suggested estimated that total U.S. manufactured exports could reach $1.6 billion from their current level of $225 million should both the U.S. and Cuba lift trade barriers.
While the potential for a new business relationship with Cuba is promising, the study does caution that much of the development will rely on not just the U.S. lifting the embargo, but Cuba actively participating in trade, too.
“There are likely a number of opportunities for U.S. exporters of manufactured goods in the event that U.S. restrictions on trade with and travel to Cuba are lifted, and the proximity of the United States to Cuba offers additional competitive advantages,” said the trade commission in the study. “The United States can produce many of the products that Cuba currently needs and ship most items at a lower cost than competitors.”