Peter Friedmann’s View from Washington, DC - June 2017

As the Still-New Administration Settles In, Some Things Change, Some Don’t

Two developments, almost simultaneously, suggest that while President Trump is intent on reversing President Obama’s policies, some will be eliminated, while others will remain intact. Not everything is changing. Here are just two very current examples, in the trade arena:

Change -- Cuba: President Donald Trump is announced his new Cuba policy, which will reverse the Obama Administration's actions that relaxed trade and travel restrictions. He argues that those previous market and tourism openings are "enriching the Cuban military and the intelligence services that contribute so much to repression on the island."

The new policy will prohibit U.S. companies from direct financial transactions with companies controlled by Cuban military and intelligence services and will limit US citizen travel to humanitarian/educational programs individually licensed by the State Department.

When the travel restrictions were lifted under President Obama, numerous cities and airports competed for direct air service to Cuba. With the restrictions reinstated, it now appears there will be fewer passengers traveling between the US and Cuba, raising questions as to the future of the new air service. Here, from an observer: “But the reality is that routes to Cuba have already been underperforming. Some airlines have decided to pull out of serving the routes to Cuba they won last year. American Airlines has pared down its service schedule, while JetBlue has switched to smaller airplanes."

No Change -- Immigration: While President Trump has reversed President Obama on Cuba, he is continuing his predecessor’s policy in another area: he has just announced that, contrary to campaign pledges, he will not eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows approximately 800,000, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as small children, to remain here in the US, with the right to attend school, work, etc. (also known as “Dreamers”). His Dept. of Homeland Security announced that these individuals will continue to be eligible to renew every two years.

It is not clear what his long term plan is for this program and others, including one granting similar residency rights to the parents of “Dreamers”. But this change of position on Dreamers suggests that the President is recognizing the complexity of the legal, practical and economic (and perhaps ethical?) factors surrounding the fate of at least some of the millions of undocumented immigrants who have been residing and working here in the US.

Meanwhile more resources, both physical (roads, etc.) and personnel are being provided to facilitate cross border trade -- what was that about a “wall”?

It’s Not All Changing: To say that everything President Obama has done will be reversed may make for screaming headlines (“Late! Breaking! News!”); however, we are seeing the Administration start to recognize that even if candidate Trump promised to “change everything”, some things just can’t or shouldn’t be changed. We will see more of this pragmatic approach as the Administration continues to tackle the challenges of governance.

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