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Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Monday, December 05, 2016

Post-Fidel Cuba

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford
by Rep. Rick Crawford: Since news of Fidel Castro’s death broke, President-elect Donald Trump has been navigating the chasm between status quo hardliners who support the Cuba embargo and the American businesses that want access to the country’s market.

Instead of alienating one group for the sake of the other, we believe an initial bargaining chip exists that satisfies both parties.

While Americans may not be ready for complete repeal of the embargo, if the United States wants to prevent nations like China from dominating Cuba’s future, then we do need to consider ways to increase our influence now, for both national security and economic reasons.

Reconciling the significant economic opportunity normalization creates with the many legitimate grievances against Cuba’s current government makes finding the right balance a challenge. We suggest an incremental approach beginning with one business sector that can tread the line between the status quo supporters and the private sector’s desire to gain a foothold.

Agriculture supports more than 17 million jobs in the United States. Easing trade restrictions could increase American agricultural exports, provide the Cuban people with our quality food, and support rural jobs across our country. Largely elected by a groundswell of rural support, President-elect Donald Trump should be able to entertain a Cuba trade policy that creates opportunity for rural businesses.

Besides the high number of rural American jobs dependent on this industry, agriculture trade is the best starting point for three reasons:

1) We won’t have to change the current embargo materially to allow agriculture trade or investment. Congress already permitted the trading of U.S. agricultural commodities with Cuba in 2000, but only on a cash-for-crop basis. A cash-only requirement renders export transactions nearly impossible, as foreign importers almost exclusively do business on financing and credit. For that reason, Cubans are forced to buy agricultural products from across the Pacific Ocean from countries that not only charge more for their products but also have historically attempted to undermine American agricultural interests. For example, Cuba imports close to 400,000 tons of rice each year, largely from Vietnam, when it could be buying rice grown here in the United States.

2) Access to high quality food helps the Cuban people, not the Cuban government. Agriculture trade deftly threads the needle between aiding the Cuban government and supporting the Cuban people, who already consume some American agricultural products. Already the fifth largest export market for U.S. chicken producers, Cuba likes American agricultural products because they are safer and higher quality than the products its current import partners provide.

3) The best way for economic and political reform in Cuba is through privately-owned businesses that already exist in the country, many of which are agribusinesses. Most people think all Cuban industry is state owned, but that is not the case. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the government privatized some industry segments by introducing market forces and incentives. Agriculture was one of the first industries over which the Cuban government relinquished some control. This relaxation lead to the creation of agriculture cooperatives and small private farming operations.

If the Trump administration would permit investment in these private enterprises, then American companies could contract and form joint ventures with private Cuban agribusinesses, and those businesses would be examples which other Cuban entrepreneurs could model. These types of partnerships will build a foundation of goodwill and cooperation that can bring reforms to Cuba the way American influence brought reform to other communist states.

After Fidel’s death, President-elect Donald Trump said, “our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.” Expanded agricultural trade is the first logical step on that journey that both builds up the Cuban people and respects the sensibilities of embargo supporters.
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Congressman Rick Crawford (R) represents the 1st Congressional Districvt of Arkansas which includes the Mississippi Delta and home to American industrial agriculture, with cotton, rice and soybeans being the biggest export from the region. Rice farms are the amongst the greatest recipients of federal farming subsidization - and three of the top five subsidy farms in the United States are in the 1st District. Opening trade with Cuba would benefit Arkansas exports.

Tags: Arkansas, Congressman Rick Crawford, Post-Fidel, Cuba To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 1:30 PM - Post Link

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