- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2016

The White House conceded Monday that President-elect Donald Trump could unravel President Obama’s historic renewal of economic and diplomatic relations with Cuba, amid indications that the Republican’s election is causing some U.S. businesses to reconsider investing in the island nation.

In the wake of Fidel Castro’s death, Mr. Trump said Monday that “if Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”

But making that move could force a major clash with the business community. His warning came as air carriers JetBlue and American Airlines flew their first regularly scheduled flights between New York and Havana, and Obama administration officials expect about 110 daily flights from the U.S. to Cuba to start in the coming months.

Dozens of U.S. companies such as Caterpillar, Amway, Sprint, Morgan Stanley, American Airlines and GE have sent representatives to Cuba in the past year seeking new business opportunities.

Mr. Trump’s vow to get tougher on the Cuban regime is causing some concerns among U.S. businesses, at least anecdotally. Peter Quinter, head of the Customs and International Trade Law Group at the law firm of GrayRobinson in Florida, said he has had one client balk at pursuing a U.S. license to do business with Cuba since Mr. Trump’s election.

But Mr. Quinter’s other clients “have expressed to me that they will continue doing business in Cuba or [with] the Cuban government,” he said in an email. Other clients have advised him to continue processing specific licenses with the Treasury or Commerce departments, or to submit such license applications, he said.

Ana Quintana, a specialist on Latin America at the Heritage Foundation, said she expects Mr. Trump to roll back many of Mr. Obama’s executive actions.

“Now more than ever, America needs to shift back to a policy of empowering the Cuban people,” she said. “Since Dec. 17, 2014, America has been on the wrong side of history. While well intentioned, President Barack Obama’s policy of engaging the Castro regime clearly has not been working.”

When Mr. Obama decided to re-establish relations with Cuba two years ago, he depended on executive actions rather than trying to persuade congressional Republicans to lift a decades-old trade embargo. That means much of his actions could be undone by Mr. Trump.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Mr. Trump “will have an opportunity” to use his executive authority on Cuba, but asserted that rolling back Mr. Obama’s actions would be unpopular with Cubans, with Americans and with U.S. businesses.

“There are large companies in the United States, cruise operators and hotel operators, that have invested significant sums of money in investing in infrastructure and doing other work to do business down in Cuba,” he said. “So, unrolling all of that is much more complicated than just the stroke of a pen.”

He said Americans “clearly like the opportunity that they have now to more easily travel to Cuba.”

“They like the opportunity that they have now to bring Cuban cigars and Cuban rum home with them for their personal enjoyment,” Mr. Earnest said. “Based on the strong support that exists on the island nation of Cuba for this policy, it’s hard to explain why you would roll it back if you say that your interest is advancing the interests of the Cuban people.”

Neither Mr. Obama nor Vice President Joseph R. Biden will attend Castro’s funeral on Tuesday, but the White House wouldn’t say whether Secretary of State John F. Kerry would attend. Cuban-Americans including Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, had urged the president to avoid the ceremony.

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