The Spokesman-Review: Reps. Malek, Erpelding urge trade openings with Cuba, decry Trump's planned rollback

The Spokesman Review

Two Idaho state representatives, one from each party, have sent out an op-ed piece opposing the President Trump’s proposed rollback of improved trade relations with Cuba, saying Idaho stands to gain if trade is opened up with the island nation. “What you may have missed from the news reporting on this issue is that bipartisan support for improved trade relations with Cuba is alive and well,” write House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, and Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene. “It is our opinion that together, Idaho Democrats and Republicans can cultivate a healthy economic relationship with Cuba that will prove fruitful to all Idahoans. That’s why we are working to advance this critical issue.”

They’re not alone. Gov. Butch Otter, who has made multiple visits to Cuba including a 2007 trade mission he led as Idaho governor, chairs the “Engage Cuba Idaho State Council,” which includes business, agriculture and education leaders, state officials, lawmakers and more, and is dedicated to pushing to open Cuban markets to Idaho products. Otter and eight other governors signed a letter tocongressional leaders in 2015 urging Congress to lift the trade embargo. And last year, state Commerce Director Megan Ronk and state Agriculture Director Celia Gould penned a guest opinion headlined, “Remove federal restrictions, let Idaho do more with Cuba.”

Cuba, just 90 miles from the U.S., imports 80 percent of its food. It’s seen as a potentially lucrative market for Idaho agricultural exports, along with other products; but current federal restrictions, while loosened somewhat since 2000, still prevent most trade. The U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba stems from Eisenhower Administration.