After six decades of communist rule in Cuba, the island is now governed by someone outside of the Castro family for the first time since the 1959 revolution. The new leader, Miguel Diaz-Canel, was vice president and a provincial party chief.
Many believe that the political and economic status quo of the Caribbean nation is unlikely to change. However, lessons from the business world indicate that any change in an organization’s key leaders ushers in a new era for a company.
Whether it’s an acquisition, merger or the appointment of a new CEO, these transformations usually carry enormous repercussions for key functions.
New priorities are typically manifested by new promotions, new players, new rules and new aims. In turn, this results in shifting financial conditions, new private developments and new service assortments.
When applying such transition effects onto countries, one could argue that there is an opportunity for President Trump to act decisively in formalizing and normalizing trade relations with Cuba if conciliatory and meaningful changes are made.
For example, changes could be made so that there are no longer higher hotel rates for Americans than for Europeans, as well as no more ongoing accusations or regurgitation of historic events that have long passed.
Curative International Marketing, a theory developed at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, directly addresses past errors and focuses on long-term restitution and improvements.
Such a move would advance U.S. businesses and their strategic interests while allowing Cuban citizens to operate in the private sector independent of the communist regime.
So far in the Trump administration, the opposite tactic has been taken by restricting American travel and trade with Cuba, which is a reversal of President Barack Obama’s policies.
A pro-business posture allows for increased commercial relations (beyond cigars) that would be more effective in countering the interests of the Cuban military’s monopoly in business.
This policy would empower private Cuban entrepreneurs by eliminating their dependence on the Cuban state apparatus and open them up to U.S. leadership and influence in the region. Private success over public ventures would speak volumes in favor of new economic and social thinking.
As a first measure, restoring the capacity for U.S. citizens to schedule individual visits to Cuba, which was eliminated in 2017, should be considered.
The potential economic boon for Cuba’s tourist industry could eventually stimulate growth in both the U.S. and Cuban economies. Also, this measure would promote democratization and bolster innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit in Cuba.
The recent promising developments in the Korean Peninsula indicate that diplomacy rather than deterrence can advance American interests in places where ideological and strategic divisions run deep. As the White House approaches a deal in East Asia, it could apply the lessons learned from the North Korean negotiations closer to home in Cuba.
President Trump’s acumen for dealmaking can face an ultimate test in Cuba. Opening conversations — and trade — with the island could mark a vast improvement in the bilateral relationship. Hopefully, the American people can look forward to the use of politics that shapes a future good for all of us.
Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent.
Lisa Burgoa of the School of Foreign Service contributed to this commentary.