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Toby Moffett, a Senior Adviser at Mayer Brown, LLP and co-leader of its Cuba team, is a former member of the US House from Connecticut.  (Photo: Mayer Brown)
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Perspectives

Prediction: Trump Keeps Cuba Policy

Easy math: Donald Trump sticks with Obama Cuba policy.

BY TOBY MOFFETT

He doesn’t read much. He doesn’t have in-depth policy discussions.

But now we know Donald Trump can count, don’t we?

And because he’s good with numbers, it’s hard to imagine a President Trump undoing the Obama détente with Cuba.

First, he knows how to do deals, and he understands how important clarity and predictability are to deal-makers He’ll soon find that there are hundreds of deals in the pipeline of US companies — big and small — across important sectors. He’s already hearing from elected officials in Republican territory from states like North Dakota and Montana exporting wheat and rice growers in Louisiana and Arkansas. And an even longer list of Republican governors, all begging him to stick with the Obama policy.

And he’s no doubt hearing from friends in the hospitality business. Can we picture a Donald Trump making companies halt flights and cruises or hotel construction? 

Our firm is just one example of how the historic Obama announcement in December 2014 has generated business in the Cuban market. The policy switch enabled us to hire a Cuban lawyer — not Cuban-American. She’s been with us for nearly a year and spends much of her time on the ground in Havana. More and more companies and the law and accounting firms that serve them are moving towards having such a presence there.

It’s hard to imagine Mr. Trump putting a halt to that. He can also count the growing numbers of people-to-people interactions taking place — many through institutional partnerships in the arts, education or sports and others simply from the crush of US tourists appearing on the island.

Many of these budding partnerships involve museums and artists from New York City and Los Angeles. Will Treasury Secretary Mnuchin — a resident of both cities and a patron of the arts — want to order the sanctions people in his department back into the business of punishing people for reaching out to Cuba?

Or, for that matter, is there anything in incoming Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s background that suggests he’d relish rolling back the many Cuba initiatives of his predecessor Penny Pritzker? No. Ross is a Yalie and on the board at the business school there. Yale has been very active across several disciplines in facilitating the Obama policy.

So what’s all this talk about how the new president will reverse the Cuba policy? Sure, he’s sent a tweet or two to that effect. And his appointments of pro-embargo Cuban-Americans are more than a bit troubling. In typical Trump style, he’ll make the ongoing negotiations between the two countries more contentious. He’ll threaten to leave the table unless Cuba moves more rapidly toward democracy and rule of law. But none of that should be a deal-breaker.

The reality is that the pro-embargo crowd is no longer a force in national politics. Conservative lawmakers who go home to constituencies that are often even farther right then they are, can find themselves in political peril if they veer from the party line on Planned Parenthood or Obamacare or the Iran deal. But there is no political price to be paid for refusing to undo Obama’s Cuba policy. In fact, it might win them an award from their local Chamber.

Of 435 House districts across the country, in how many could an anti-embargo stance be a negative for their representative? Maybe two or three in South Florida and one in Jersey City. That’s not very complicated math. Book your flight.

Toby Moffett is a former member of the US House from Connecticut. He is a Senior Adviser at Mayer Brown, LLP and co-leader of its Cuba team.

Republished from the Huffington Post with permission from the author.

 

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