By: Jenny Hopkinson
MORAN TAKING ANOTHER SWING AT CUBA: ICYMI, Sen. Jerry Moran spoke last week about his recently reintroduced bill to lift the trade embargo with Cuba, arguing that farmers in Kansas and across the nation desperately need Cuba’s estimated $2 billion food export market right now to help rid themselves of piles of excess wheat, corn and other grains. The Cuba Trade Act (S. 472) would repeal or amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000.
Wheat is Cuba’s second-largest import, behind oil, the Kansas Republican said in a floor speech. “Keep in mind that when we don’t sell agricultural commodities to Cuba, somebody else does. When we can’t sell wheat that comes from a Kansas wheat field to Cuba, they’re purchasing that wheat from France, from Canada, from other European countries.”
But the U.S. could have an advantage, Moran added: “It costs about $6 to $7 a ton to ship grain from the United States to Cuba. It costs about $20 to $25 to ship that same grain from the European Union.”
Moran faces a potential major obstacle in the White House, however. Rex Tillerson said in early January — before he was confirmed as secretary of State and before Trump was sworn in as president — that he would advise vetoing any legislation that codified President Barack Obama’s executive orders on Cuba, at least until a full review could be conducted.
James Williams, president of Engage Cuba and one of the leading advocates for restoring trade with the communist nation, remains optimistic. It’s up to Congress to end the embargo, but it’s something that Trump should want if he is serious about being able to negotiate a better deal with Cuba, Williams said Monday.
Williams likes the chances for Moran’s bill and Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer’s companion in the House (H.R. 442), but said he believes Congress is more likely to move forward with smaller-scale measures that are widely supported, such as the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act (H.R. 525). That bill, introduced in early January by Rep. Rick Crawford, would make it easier to offer credit to Cuban buyers of U.S. agricultural goods. A companion measure (S. 275) was introduced in February by Sens. John Boozman and Heidi Heitkamp.