NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The lifting of U.S. sanctions against Cuba could prove to be a boon for U.S. companies, especially those involved in mining, petroleum exploration, agribusiness, biotechnology and tourism.
That's the view of Kirby Jones, a longtime business consultant on trade with in Cuba, after President Obama announced plans on Wednesday to end more than half a century of economic sanctions against the Castro regime.
"There will be large interest in mining and mining equipment," Jones, whose Alamar Associates has worked with U.S. companies around Cuba for more than 40 years, said in a phone interview Wednesday from Fountain Hills, Ariz. "Agribusiness has the potential to attract a lot of interest as well, as Cuba has opened all of its lands to foreign investment, including sugar. The sale of food has the potential to expand tremendously."
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Biotech is another area that is primed for investments because Cuba has developed vaccines that are unavailable in the U.S., Kirby added. Cigars and spirits are two other products that U.S. companies are certain to pursue in Cuba, he said.
"Cigars and rum are sexy, and they also represent great potential for sale to the U.S.," Jones said.
And then there's tourism, probably the most obvious industry for U.S. investment led by hotel chains and cruise lines that already operate in the Caribbean.
On Wednesday, Obama said that the U.S. had agreed to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and to open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than 50 years. But because a vote of Congress is needed to eliminate broad economic sanctions in place for decades, Obama was able to take only comparatively small steps such as permitting U.S. financial institutions to open "correspondent accounts" at Cuban financial institutions to facilitate transactions. Also, travelers to Cuba will be able to use U.S. credit cards in the country.
Additionally, the maximum limit on remitrances will be raised from $500 to $2,000 per quarter for Cuban nationals. Other travel restrictions were also lifted, though not for ordinary tourists.
"When Obama talks about financial arrangements, that's potentially very important," Jones said. "But if this is just about credit cards, 'who cares?' "