Open Cuba presents opportunities for Ohio

Lorain Morning Journal

By: Rep. Tim Ryan

Tim Ryan is a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Ohio’s 13th District. Rep. Ryan serves as co-chairman of the Congressional Manufacturing Caucus as serves as a member of the House Appropriations Committee and House Budget Committee.

With President Obama’s recent announcement of his impending trip to Cuba in March, his visit will be a unifying moment for U.S.-Cuba relations and one that can help us envision how we create new jobs and bolster the economy in an increasingly interconnected global market. I believe we have a unique opportunity to fulfill part of this vision by expanding our trade relationship between our businesses in Ohio and Cuba – a relationship that would have real and impactful results right here at home. 

I saw these opportunities myself on a recent trade mission to Cuba with members of the northeastern Ohio business community. Being in Cuba and meeting with commerce officials allowed me to understand firsthand how Ohio-made commodities would not only benefit Ohio, but also the Cuban people. By putting the right tools and infrastructure in place, the Cuban people can have a greater ability to innovate and a better opportunity to create long lasting change on the Island. 

While the U.S. and Cuban governments have made great strides in expanding trade and travel opportunities in just one year of re-engagement— after 50 years of isolation — the trade embargo has prevented our manufacturing and agricultural sector from benefiting from the business opportunities in Cuba. While Ohio companies are kept on the sidelines due to the trade embargo, our international competitors are scooping up opportunities with no competition from local businesses in Ohio or across the country. 

Ohioans from across the political spectrum support the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba, with a recent poll putting that support at 78 percent. That is why I am working with local community and business leaders and organizations such as Engage Cuba and their recently announced Ohio State Council to support an end to the Cuban trade embargo. For the first time, this council will bring together a diverse array of Ohioans to articulate why increased U.S.-Cuban relations are in our state’s best interest. 

Trade with Cuba will allow northeast Ohio businesses to increase our automobile, manufacturing and agricultural exports. There is a huge opportunity for infrastructure investment – something that Ohioans can provide via our strong steel industry which provides 100,000 jobs in Ohio and generates $4.8 billion in wages. Ohio’s agricultural sector would also benefit tremendously from increased trade with Cuba. Cuba imports 80% of their food, and some of our top agricultural exports like soy, corn, dairy and wheat, are Cuba’s main imports. 

Ending the Cuban trade embargo would give Ohio’s farmers and manufacturers the opening they need to compete in this market. We have a huge opportunity to put Buckeye state products into the hands of Cubans eager to have them. What better place than northeast Ohio to provide these resources, and what a great vision for the future.