New bill would lift trade restrictions with Cuba
Washington—On the heels of President Barack Obama’s announcement that he plans to open trade with Cuba, a bipartisan group of senators offered what is expected to be the first of many measures that would fully normalize trade relations with Cuba.
Farm Bureau has long called for a removal of trade restrictions with Cuba, and the organization is optimistic that expanded trade with the U.S. will serve as a cornerstone for additional reforms.
“The president’s opening to Cuba promises to improve trade conditions by making it easier for Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural and food products. This is welcome news for our nation’s farmers and ranchers,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in a statement.
Currently, U.S. farmers can export to Cuba, but third-party banking requirements and limited credit financing have made it harder to compete in the market than it should be, explained Stallman. The lifting of those restrictions will be helpful, but full trade relations with Cuba are a must. A bill introduced earlier this month by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) would end the overall embargo.
Specifically, the legislation (S. 491) would remove the sections of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 that established the trade embargo and the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act of 1996, which strengthened the embargo. The proposal would also repeal the current legal restrictions against doing business with Cuba and end limitations on direct shipping between U.S. and Cuban ports. This bill is among the first Cuba-related measures introduced after Obama’s announcement, but many more are expected to follow.
“The bipartisan support for this legislation shows both Republicans and Democrats are as enthusiastic as farmers and ranchers about the prospect of normalizing of trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba and the opportunities the island nation presents to U.S. businesses,” said Dave Salmonsen, AFBF trade specialist. “Cuban cigars and rum are recognized the world over, but it’s U.S. chicken, corn, soybeans and many other commodities that Cubans are clamoring for.”