Cuba's cultural influence on the United States has long been a fixture of American life, from “I Love Lucy” to pop music and cigars. Now, the United States’ move to normalize relations with its neighbor 90 miles to the south could potentially open up new avenues for business and commerce between the two counties.
“I believe that American businesses should not be put at a disadvantage, and that increased commerce is good for Americans and for Cubans,” President Obama said Wednesday in a speech announcing the breakthrough deal.
The president said that American banking services will soon operate in Cuba, Americans will be able to do business on the island and telecom connections between the U.S. and Cuba will increase.
But the president alone cannot bring an end to an embargo imposed on Cuba in 1960, originally through executive actions. It will take an act of Congress to formally lift the embargo that has stifled the Cuban economy, harmed U.S.-Latin American relations and prevented Cuban Americans from visiting their families and supporting them financially.
American companies reacted to the news with cautious optimism in statements compiled by CNBC. Below are reactions from various U.S. companies.
GM: "We're very encouraged by the comments today. We'll certainly evaluate any opportunities that may present themselves."
Major League Baseball: "Major League Baseball is closely monitoring the White House's announcement regarding Cuban-American relations. While there are not sufficient details to make a realistic evaluation, we will continue to track this significant issue, and we will keep our Clubs informed if this different direction may impact the manner in which they conduct business on issues related to Cuba."
Coca Cola: "Coca-Cola does not do business in Cuba. The Company would only consider re-entering the market at the appropriate time and in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations governing US relations with Cuba."
Mastercard: "We welcome today's announcement that U.S. issued credit and debit cards will soon be able to be used in Cuba. We look forward to the guidance from OFAC on the timelines and the process to make this a reality for our cardholders."
Western Union: "Western Union connects millions of senders and receivers worldwide, through a global network of more than 500,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories and over 100,000 ATMS and kiosks. Western Union has provided money transfer services from the U.S. to Cuba since 1999, in accordance with The U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) laws. The company welcomes these changes and is ready to implement the new rules, announced today, consistent with OFAC guidelines. We have a long tradition of offering reliable money transfer services to the Cuban community and look forward to continuing to provide a convenient way for families to send money to Cuba."
Cisco: "More connections between people and countries is good for the world. We, of course, comply with all laws and sell where the US government allows. We always look for new markets and will continue to do so."
Carnival Cruise: "Cuba is the largest country in the Caribbean, so there's some exciting possibilities from a cruise industry perspective. Some infrastructure for cruising already exists in the country, along with several ports, so it offers great potential, but there are other issues that will need to be taken into consideration if this market opens up."
JetBlue: "We currently operate three weekly charter flights to Cuba, FLL-HAV, TPA-HAV, TPA-SNU. It's too early to assess the implications of the change in policy, and we wouldn't want to speculate, but we certainly are interested in the opportunities. Below is our statement regarding the recent announcement from the White House."We recognize the potential demand for more travel options among people who need to travel between the U.S and Cuba. We would be interested in further expanding the successful charter program we've operated into Cuba over the last three years."
Marriott: "We are very excited for the people of Cuba and the opportunity and jobs that will be created when relations with the US open up, especially for travel and tourism. We will take our cues from the US government, but look forward to opening hotels in Cuba, as companies from others countries have done already."
Caterpillar: "The reopening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba is a welcome development, a move which Caterpillar been a long-standing proponent. Engagement, rather than isolation, can provide a strong incentive for change, benefitting American and Cuban communities alike. We are hopeful that today's events represent a key step toward a true open relationship between both nations, offering opportunities to export to a new market and Cuba the necessary goods to modernize."
Orbitz: "We look forward to the day - hopefully soon - when all Americans have the opportunity to travel to Cuba," said Barney Harford, CEO of Orbitz Worldwide. "There are numerous economic, social and cultural benefits that will flow from free and open access and our customers are eager to visit Cuba."