As U.S. President Barack Obama visits Cuba for the first time this month, the departments of Treasury and Commerce announced amendments that will significantly expand American access to the island via educational travel and more secure commercial and private-sector trade policies. The trip comes just a few months before NCBA CLUSA leads the first-ever U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Forum in Havana, expected to further strengthen both countries’ cooperative economies.
Obama is the first U.S. president in almost 90 years to visit the island, a signal that relations continue to improve. The U.S. embassy in Cuba reopened in August during a ceremony attended by Secretary of State John Kerry. “This is what historic change looks like,” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba. NCBA CLUSA and Engage Cuba work together to support ending the trade and travel bans between the U.S. and Cuba.
Scheduling exchange visits, the NCBA CLUSA-led U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group originally visited the island with leaders from the U.S cooperative community in 2014, publishing a report on the emerging Cuban cooperative sector.
Cooperatives are central to Cuba’s changing economic landscape. The handover of state-run businesses to cooperative ownership could result in 20 to 30 percent of Cuba’s workers being actively involved in cooperatives, including more than 8,000 restaurants that could transition to worker-owned cooperatives. By 2017, the Cuban government expects there to be approximately 10,000 cooperatives in the country.
“As the voice of the cooperative community in the U.S, NCBA CLUSA is uniquely positioned to engage cooperative leaders in Cuba as the movement develops and grows,” said Amy Coughenour Betancourt, COO of International Programs for NCBA CLUSA. “Cooperative businesses are a critical part of a strategy to open up private sector opportunities in Cuba.”
NCBA CLUSA is currently planning the first U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Forum to be hosted in Havana in June 2016, engaging the U.S. cooperative community in mutually beneficial commercial and technical exchanges that will strengthen the cooperative movements in both countries.