When he makes his historic visit to Cuba next week, President Obama will try to kick-start a business relationship that has yet to flourish despite intense administration efforts.
Obama will arrive with a delegation that includes the CEOs of Xerox and Marriott International to help nudge along deals in the works. U.S. airlines are set to resume commercial flights to Cuba this summer, a New York-based research facility is working with Cuban researchers on a lung cancer vaccine, and an Alabama-based tractor company has won approval to build a factory near Havana. Hotel chains Marriott and Starwood could announce their own deals during the president’s trip, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. And AT&T could join Sprint and Verizon in providing roaming services on the island.
Cementing as many of those deals now is key, given Congress’ current refusal to lift the trade embargo against Cuba and Republican presidential candidates’ opposition to Obama’s opening with the Cuban government, said Ralph Patino, who is nearing a deal with the Cuban government to open a building products and supply store outside Havana.