Anya Landau French Article for WIIT Discusses the Opening of the Cuban Market
Women in International Trade has published “Cuba: So Near, and Yet So Far Away,” an article by Akin Gump public law and policy senior policy advisor Anya Landau French.
Landau French, whose arrival at Akin Gump kicked off the firm’s multi-office Cuba initiative (learn more here), characterizes the United States and Cuba as “natural trading partners” and sketches the history of the relationship between the two nations prior to the island’s revolution in 1959.
She describes Cuba’s achievements, which, in addition to universal health care, education and housing, include its place as a “recognized leader in the bio-pharmaceutical sector” and its “highly trained and inventive workforce in the ICT sector.” Speaking of the island’s “unique charm that has long drawn millions of visitors,” she points to Cuba’s shortfall in the infrastructure to handle the recent upsurge in tourism as “an opportunity for foreign investors.”
Landau French also notes challenges, such as “failed economic policies that have left the country with an educated, but underpaid population…a large bureaucracy that slows reforms and drains productivity, a surprisingly unproductive agriculture sector, deteriorating infrastructure…and distortionary exchange rate policies.”
While noting that U.S. companies’ Cuban counterparts are not always “entirely familiar or not on board for business as usual, from the U.S. perspective,” given the longstanding embargo and the Cuban perception that the benefits of the pre-revolutionary business environment heavily favored U.S. interests over those of Cuba, she also believes that “decades of mistrust can be overcome with a healthy dose of patience, and, most importantly, a market entry strategy rooted in demonstrating mutual respect and a commitment to the mutual enjoyment of benefits.”