Idaho leaders should push end to Cuba trade embargo

Idaho Press-Tribune

By: Editorial Board

Some of Idaho’s top business, government and agricultural leaders are taking what might be an unpopular position with some Idahoans in their push to end the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba. Nonetheless, it’s the right position to take.

Other efforts are underway in other heavily Republican states to promote the effort. The Engage Cuba Idaho State Council has members from the Idaho Farm Bureau, Idaho Potato Commission, Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and United Dairymen of Idaho and is chaired by Gov. Butch Otter. The governor has visited the island nation south of Florida many times, including a trade mission he led in 2007.

Cuba is hardly popular in Idaho, considering the fact it is still, at least in some respects, a communist nation with questionable human rights practices. President Obama’s visit there in March, the first for a sitting U.S. president since 1959, did little to quell suspicions here that the visit was just a symbolic show, and the president isn’t exactly Mr. Popular around here, anyway.

But doing business with someone shouldn’t be construed as a sign that you like them and approve of everything they do. It simply means you see an opportunity for a mutually beneficial exchange. That’s what business should be.

There are plenty of other nations the United States does business with that have abundant faults of their own. China is certainly no model citizen when it comes to human rights, yet our country did an estimated $654 billion worth of trade with the People’s Republic — also a communist nation — in 2015 alone. Granted, we bought much more than we sold (by an almost 3-to-1 margin), but look at it this way: we get products our citizens want, and the people in China put food on their tables. Politics seems fairly inconsequential compared to such basic necessities of life.

We also get some of our oil from people who aren’t exactly model citizens. Is trading with Cuba really anything worth getting our feathers ruffled over?

Besides, the more we increase openness with other nations, the more likely they are to increase human rights, freedoms and democracy. China is a good example. Even though they are still far from our model of openness and freedom, they have dramatically improved their openness in government, human rights and citizen freedoms.

Having another customer for Idaho products, particularly food, could be a potential boon for our the state and bring in valuable revenue and employment. We strongly support the effort to end the trade embargo with Cuba.

The world is a diverse place with very diverse people living very diverse lives with diverse beliefs and values. You don’t have to follow the news too closely to know that there is no shortage of people hating and killing each other over differences in those values and beliefs.

One of the best ways to at least put a cap on the hate and killing is through trade. When you have a valuable trade relationship with someone you otherwise wouldn’t like, it’s a great incentive to find ways to at least be civil with one another. And in today’s world, we need as much of that as we can get.