Opinion: Mr. Trump!

Julia Sagebien: “If as president you want to get a better deal on Cuba, I suggest you just apply the 11 negotiating tactics that inspired your book”

Sagebien column headBy Julia Sagebien

Mr. Trump, if as president you want to get a better deal on Cuba, I suggest you just apply the 11 negotiating tactics that inspired your book to the analysis:

  1. Get to know your market. With all due respect Sir, many of the people who want you go back to a policy of hard sanctions in Cuba have never set foot on the island or left it a very (very!) long time ago. And for most of them, opposing relations with Cuba is a career. They are experts in scuttling other people’s business deals. And many of them have never sat across the table from a Cuban official and successfully negotiated a tough deal. Do these people really know how to clinch a good deal down there?
  1. Maximize your options. Why would you engage in a policy that limits your options to simply saying NO and locking up the relationship in a permanent limbo? If you say YES, you have years to work on all sorts of deals with them, not just in business, but also in all kinds of areas — immigration, human rights, drug enforcement, oil exploration. That is a lot of balls in the air you can play with. And on political deals, trust me, with the Cubans, honey works better than vinegar.
  1. Use your leverage. There are a lot of business opportunities and really tough bilateral issues on the table for the very first time in decades. Use what you’ve got. And if you don’t like the outcomes, you’ve made it clear that you would walk away from the negotiating table. And the Cubans are terrific dealmakers. But you’ve got to know how to play them. And let me tell you, intimidation doesn’t work. This goes for business deals as well as for any policy negotiation. I think you would actually like them a lot.
  1. Deliver the goods. You want to create jobs, increase exports and create business opportunities for Americans. You know terrific people all over the country who work in industries like tourism, travel, entertainment, agriculture and construction. If you apply your own negotiating tactics they can make great deals that will create jobs in America. If you roll back the existing policies they will lose credibility — and a heck of a lot of money. Millions! Many Cubans already don’t trust American business and the American government. This is going to get in the way of Americans getting the best deals in the future. What would we get out of this except grief in our own backyard?
  1. Fight back –The real fight is with our competitors — the Europeans, the Canadians and the Chinese. Let’s fight to present the best proposals and get the pick of the litter. Don’t give up any gained territory. Go for more. So, play hard — but play.
  1. Location, location, location. The U.S. is Cuba’s natural market. Only 90 miles away. In this game of Monopoly, America owns Boardwalk! You’ve got the other countries beat. And even if Cubans import and export stuff from them, why not route container traffic through southern ports? But we have to make it legal to do so.
  1. Get the word out. OK, when Cuban-Americans were dancing in the streets of Miami celebrating Fidel’s death, it made sense for you to get the word out by sending a hardline pro-embargo message. Their grievances are real. But life goes on. Fidel’s brother Raúl and his successors are going to be around for a long time, no matter what we do and how many people dance on Fidel’s grave. If you stick to the normalization process, you will be able to get the word out hundreds of times. Who knows, maybe your kids could really expand the Trump brand down there.
  1. Protect from the downside. Cubans are the only immigrants who can just set foot in the U.S. and, presto, they get to stay. That’s not fair to all of the people who are patiently waiting their turn to get approval to immigrate. Your immigration reform will have to get rid of the Cuban Adjustment Act. But if you cut off the escape valve at the same time that you put the screws on Cuba’s economy, the whole place could just blow up. The result would be thousands of (by then illegal) Cuban boat people on U.S waters just like the Syrian refugees in Europe. And the human rights and repression situation will only get worse. Why? Because for the Cuban government this is a ‘law and order’ problem. Not just that, but when the border with Mexico gets harder to cross, smugglers will then bring drugs into the U.S. via Gulf waters. The Cuban Coast Guard already works really well with the U.S. Coast Guard to prevent this sort of thing. We can’t risk not getting their cooperation on drugs and, and for that matter, on oil spills.
  1. Contain the costs. Once you take office, you will have hundreds of major issues to worry about. Why complicate matters by getting into a side fight with a tiny little country that is neither a military nor an economic threat? The downside would be messy and hugely expensive in money, lives and votes.
  1. Think Big. Granted, Obama opened the door. But you can be the president who really makes ‘The Big Time Deals with the Cubans!’ Not just in business. If the Cubans can take more control over their own economic future, they can also start taking more control over their political lives. If you talk to the average Cuban on the street and even to most of the dissidents, they will tell you, loud and clear, that normalization has given them hope and a possibility for a better life. Give them a chance to embrace change by using a policy that works.
  1. And, you could have fun

Art of the Deal coverOK – why am I telling you all this… Who am I? I am a Cuban-American exile who can claim as much family hardship from the Castro brother’s regime as any other exile can. I came to this country, went to school on scholarships, worked hard and even became part of “the elite”. And yes, I am a Democrat. And yes, I was with ‘her’. By the way — I already moved to Canada (30 years ago and for personal reasons). But because I have been able to travel to Cuba as a business professor for over two decades, I have seen with my own eyes what works and what doesn’t work.

Sir, you didn’t win Florida or the blue-collar vote or the American heartland or the business vote by promising that you would be tough on Castro. That is not their fight. They want jobs, opportunities…a better future.

Only you, through your executive power, can decide which way this will all go. Stick to the opening and Americans will reap huge rewards. Go back to a useless fight and it will cost both sides a lot, for nothing.

Thank you for your time.


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