Engage Cuba Coalition Draws the Midwest into the Conversation About U.S.-Cuba Relations

WKSU NPR - Kent State University

By: Jeff St. Clair

A new push to expand trade relations with Cuba was launched Wednesday in Cleveland.  The group includes farmers, educators and business leaders who want Congress to repeal the trade embargo and allow free travel to the island nation.

WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair reports it’s an effort to include the Midwest in the conversation about Cuba policy.

James Williams is president of the Engage Cuba Coalition.  He’s brought together a wide-ranging group of Ohioans to join him in lobbying Congress to allow trade and travel with Cuba.

That group, the Ohio State Council, includes Ohio State President Michael Drake, Cleveland Foundation CEO Ronald Richard, and a long list of agriculture, trade and development advocates pushing for an end to the 55-year-old embargo.

“The Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Soy Bean Association, the Corn and Wheat Growers are all joining on because they see a market opportunity. But we also have manufacturing; Proctor & Gamble is a member of ours, as well university systems, and there’s also cultural and educational opportunities.”

Williams says a recent survey shows 78 percent of Ohioans from both parties support the Obama administration’s restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba.

Analysts estimate that without the embargo US trade with Cuba could be worth $4.3 billion per year.