Head of U.S.-Cuba Trade Association in Sarasota to tell of nation’s dealings without U.S.
Cuba is doing billions of dollars in trade with other countries and is set to explore vast deposits of oil and natural gas off its shoreline while the United States continues to sit on the sidelines.
That was the general message delivered Thursday by Kirby Jones, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association, to members of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s International Business Council during a presentation at the University of South Florida.
Despite the 40-year-old U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, the country has evolved capita-list-style businesses and enterprises, Jones said.
From cooperatives of bed-and-breakfast operators who share in expenses and are able to become wealthy, to the $2.3 billion in annual sales of nickel the country makes to Canada, Cuba is increasingly starting to resemble a capitalist system, Jones said.
“There’s no reason Florida can’t do as much business as anyone else,” Jones said. “There will be lots of flights, lots of vacation packages and lots of cruise ships coming out of Florida (if trade is opened).”
While politicians in this country are waiting for Cuban President Fidel Castro to die before exploring open trade, Jones argued that flourishing commerce between Cuba and other countries developed during his reign.
“All of these changes don’t depend on Fidel Castro,” Jones said. “All of these changes happened on Fidel Castro’s watch. Did he want them to come? Regardless, they are there. We are seeing the post-Fidel era.”
Jones said the U.S. may find a new incentive to open up trade discussions as Cuba is about to partner with China, India and other countries to explore the 5 billion to 10 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that is believed to exist in the waters off Havana.
The subject of opening up trade with Cuba, however, is a controversial one.
While some argue that allowing U.S. trade with Cuba would bring prosperity and much-needed goods to the people of the island country, many native Cubans who now reside in the United States believe it would only perpetuate totalitarian control there. Anthony Mazzucca, senior adviser with Sperry Van Ness Blackpoint Realty LLC in Bradenton, said Jones’ information was intriguing. He believes it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. is doing business with Cuba.
“I think it will happen,” Mazzucca said. “I think there are certainly grievances that have to be dealt with. Saying that, Cuba exists. It’s not going to go away. I have Cuban relatives and I know how they feel. They’re wonderful people and they’ve suffered a lot but I hope we can do business with them for the sake of those people.”
Mr. Jones’ website for the US Cuba Trade Association is USCuba.org.