Ag coalition urges normalized trade with Cuba

U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba is pushing to lift longstanding U.S sanction on Cuba and liberalize trade in an effort to improve economic opportunities for both countries.

A coalition of ag organizations says U.S. trade sanctions against Cuba have failed and have harmed not only agricultural and other business opportunities in the island country but the 11 million people of Cuba.

The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba seeks to end the U.S. embargo against Cuba and liberalize trade between the two countries.

A coalition of more than 25 agricultural organizations founded a year ago, USACC held a press conference in Washington, D.C., last week to stress the importance of lifting the embargo.

Devry Boughner Vorwerk, vice president of corporate affairs for Cargill and USACC chairman, said the coalition re-energizes the U.S. ag community’s long history of support to change the status quo of U.S.-Cuba policy and offer high-quality, affordable, safe food to the Cuban people.

“What we believe is that through greater openness and normalization of relations, that allows not only U.S. agriculture but other U.S. businesses across manufacturing, medical technology, etc., to take advantage of that opportunity in the market and to also help the Cuban people begin to grow their incomes and enhance their standards of living,” she said.

Paul Johnson, owner of Chicago Foods and executive director of Illinois Cuba Working Group, said the 54-year-old embargo hasn’t served the interests of the United States or of the Cuban people.

Improved trade will strengthen lives by bringing economic opportunities to the Cuban people, he said. It will also allow U.S. companies to expand into new markets and bring more jobs to the U.S.

Johnson, whose company exports food products to Cuba, said to be competitive the U.S. must extend to Cuba the same credit and other financial terms given to other trading partners, and to open U.S. markets to Cuban goods.

Current restrictions require the Cubans pay for agricultural products before delivery in cash through a third-party bank. The lack of return shipments of Cuban goods increases transportation costs.

“Our message is that U.S. strength and Cuban sovereignty is more powerful than US-Cuba embargo,” he said.

Carol Ryan Dumas, Capital Press

January 13, 2015


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