After half a century of broken relationships, U.S. government is lifting restrictions to Cuba and Texas may be the first state benefited from it. Expert Jorge Pinon talks about potential benefits in the Agriculture, Energy, and Tourism industries, including Texas ports and natural gas.
Billions of dollars could be on the line. The United States’ new chapter with Cuba could bring a major economic boost to the Texas economy.
After more than five decades of severe economic constraints experts believe, if the restrictions come down, Texas products might be the first in line.
“If Cuba is going to establish business relations for goods and services they are going to establish it with the United States, because it’s not simply a matter of cost and economics — it’s that its just 90 miles away,” said Jorge Pinon Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Energy Program at UT Austin.
Pinon, who is also Cuban-American, left the country at 12 years old. He says he see’s potential benefits for Texas in the Agriculture, Energy, and Tourism industries. The state could also lead the way with its ports and natural gas. “Cuba is going to have a huge demand for electricity, and that electricity is most likely going to be fueled by natural gas,” he said. That’s most likely going to be exported from Texas.”
While the economic upside seems like a win for business, the President’s move drew fierce criticism.
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry blasted the President in a statement saying, “The reopening of U.S. and Cuban embassies is the latest step in President Obama’s normalization of relations with the Castro regime, and the most recent example of this president’s foreign policy that ignores reality in exchange for surface level political “wins.” The truth is that since the Castro brothers assumed power in 1959, their policies have changed very little. The Cuban people today are not any freer politically or economically, and President Obama has failed to account for what the Castro regime has done in the last several years that warrants such an enormous shift in a longstanding U.S. policy of economic embargo and diplomatic isolation. There is no indication that further normalization will do anything to actually liberate the Cuban people or advance American interests.”
On Wednesday in a statement Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller had a bit different take, “It is only 900 miles between Houston and Havana but for more than five decades it might well have been a million miles,” Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said. “Now is the time for our two nations to work together to improve relations and what better way to do that than through food. Texas agricultural products are the best in the world and I am working to expand agriculture trading relationships across the globe, and that includes the Cuban market. While I strongly disagree with Cuba’s political philosophy, by expanding trade, Cubans can see the success of democracy and embrace a free market society, and at the same time, Texans will benefit through trade growth.”
Pinon calls the move a very important step forward, but one that could take some time.
“After 54 years of no relationship you cannot assume that overnight we are going to be holding hands and singing Kumbayah, that’s not going to be the way it is,” he said. “Longer term it’s a huge opportunity for United States businesses.”