A little over a year after President Barack Obama announced plans to normalize relations with the island nation just 90 miles from Florida, the U.S. Treasury has approved the construction of the first U.S.-owned factory in Cuba in more than 50 years.
The best part? It’s a tractor factory, run by two retired software engineers who live in Alabama and want to manufacture small farm machinery for Cuba’s family farmers.
"Everybody wants to go to Cuba to sell something and that's not what we're trying to do. We're looking at the problem and how do we help Cuba solve the problems that they consider are the most important problems for them to solve," said Horace Clemmons, who runs Cleber with partner Saul Berenthal. "It's our belief that in the long run we both win if we do things that are beneficial to both countries."
The factory could open as early as 2017.
It’s just one of many economic opportunities that are expected to be available in Cuba for U.S. companies, which see the country as a new market for ag exports, manufacturing, travel, and more. On Tuesday, the two countries agreed to allow U.S. airlines to begin offering regular flights between the two countries for the first time in decades. President Obama could visit the country as soon as March, according to Politico.
As promising as these developments are, though, limitations still remain when it comes to trading with Cuba.
“It’s great that we’re seeing a reduction in restrictions. It’s great that the travel restrictions are coming down,” said Secretary of Agriuclture Tom Vilsack. “But we still have the credit problems with reference to agricultural products, and we still have the inability to use our promotion resources at USDA. Those are two really critically important things and that’s why the embargo needs to be lifted.”