WASHINGTON – Kansas Senator Jerry Moran wants to lift the country’s long-standing trade embargo on Cuba, a move that would open up a potentially lucrative market for Kansas farmers and ranchers.
Moran, a Republican, has long been in favor of relaxing trade restrictions with the communist Caribbean country. But his advocacy gained little ground when the administration of former President Donald Trump took a hawkish stance on Cuba.
But with President Joe Biden in power and Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, Moran is teaming up with two Democrats, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, to revive the issue.
In announcing their legislation to lift the embargo, Moran argued that the policy punished American companies and empowered China.
“The unilateral trade embargo on Cuba prevents our own farmers, ranchers and manufacturers from selling in a market just 90 miles from our coastline, while foreign competitors such as China profit at our expense,” Moran said in a statement. communicated.
“This legislation will expand market opportunities for US producers by allowing them to compete on an equal footing with other countries.”
The measure would repeal all current restrictions on doing business with Cuba, including the 1961 law that first authorized an embargo.
“Instead of looking to the future, US-Cuban politics have been defined for too long by the conflicts of the past,” Klobuchar said.
“As we work to rebuild our economy after the pandemic, lifting the trade embargo will open the door to a large export market and create jobs in the United States. It is time to turn the page on the failure of the isolation policy by passing our bipartisan legislation to end the embargo once and for all.
The United States began allowing the sale of food and agricultural products to Cuba in the early 2000s as part of reforms adopted at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency. These exports brought in more than $ 163 million last year, according to the Cuban-American Economic and Trade Council.
But the economic restrictions remain in place. Senators pointed to the US Trade Commission’s analysis that lifting the embargo would increase exports by 166% and bring in $ 800 million to the US economy over five years, with much of that money coming from exports. of Kansas’ staples, such as wheat and soybeans.
“We applaud the work of Senator Moran in proposing legislation to lift the trade embargo on Cuba,” said Rich Felts, president of the Kansas Farm Bureau. “Having the ability to export Kansas staples like wheat, corn and soybeans with our Cuban neighbors would be a victory for Kansas communities, the state and the nation. “
However, Moran’s proposal is likely to meet opposition from a significant section of the Republican Party.
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, son of Cuban immigrants, warned in December about the thaw in relations with Cuba in a column in the Miami Herald.
“If Biden were to re-engage in the same policies of the Obama era, we know too well who would suffer: those who seek a freer and more democratic Cuba, including dissidents, political prisoners, artists and activists from the island, “wrote Rubio.
Fellow Kansas Republican Mike Pompeo likely complicated Moran’s case when he added Cuba to the list of states that support terrorism in January during his last nine days as secretary of state, overturning the former President Barack Obama’s decision to remove the island nation from the list in 2015.
“With this action, we will again hold the Cuban government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and the subversion of American justice,” Pompeo said at the time. .