President Obama is in Cuba, the first sitting president to travel to the island in nearly ninety years. His trip kicks off a historic week, as he travels on to Argentina, the only G20 country he has not yet visited during his time in office, and also marks the first bilateral visit by a U.S. president since 1997. As the entire world watches this historic moment, tech companies are paying particularly close attention because of the unique role our companies can play in these important markets.
The Obama Administration has made significant initial progress in opening the door to more tech companies accessing the Cuban market, where they can provide the necessary connections between the United States and Cuba and critical services to support the growing entrepreneurial sector on the island.
In Argentina, the country’s long-standing focus on the services and technology industries allowed it to flourish even in times of economic downturn, and there continues to be even further opportunities there as the new government’s trade and investment policies improve.
The technology industry shares the following hopes for President Obama’s Cuba and Argentina trip outcomes:
- First, we hope the tech industry can be a trusted partner in the economic reforms in both countries. As both bilateral relationships reestablish economic and trade dialogues, our goal is that industry on both sides will be included and able to provide experiences, best practices, and lessons learned from markets around the globe to inform and facilitate these conversations. ITI recently brought a delegation of member companies to Cuba for these critical exchanges, and we look forward to a similar trip to Argentina in June.
- Second, the technology industry plays a unique and integral role in providing the solutions necessary to make critical progress in advancing the economic and social development goals of both Argentina and Cuba. Both countries have potential for leveraging technology to improve their infrastructure, agribusiness, healthcare and biotechnology industries, and the global technology industry seeks to support those priorities.
- Third, as both countries reengage with the global economy, it is important for leaders to understand the inherent global platform that technology can provide and avoid any policies that could inadvertently re-isolate their markets or restrict the potential benefits that could come from this important opportunity.
- Lastly, it is no secret both countries need significant foreign investment in order for their economic policy changes to succeed. However, that investment will only come if there is a positive climate for investment that protects and encourages foreign companies in the market.
It is rare that Cuba and Argentina make their way into the same conversation or official visit. The list of differences between the two markets is vast; however, there are more similarities between these countries today than one might think.
Cuba and Argentina both have highly educated populations, rich human capital, and a strong commitment to social programs. As they recover from financial and economic hardships, both countries are actively improving trust and relations with creditors, international organizations, and critical trading partners, and changes in government policies are bringing about significant economic reforms.
These changes are happening at a measured and incremental pace, but also in a way to attract the much needed investment to stimulate their economies and the latent productivity that results from their significant economic challenges. This positions them to emerge from relative isolation and rebuild ties with the United States and other important partners in the global economy, restoring trust and collaboration between governments and between business and policymakers.
For both markets, the whole world – and especially the tech sector – is watching and rooting for their economic success.