NJBIZ: New Jersey leaders build support for lifting US embargo on Cuba

A group of political and business leaders from across New Jersey launched a bipartisan council to urge Congress to lift trade and travel restrictions on Cuba.

The effort makes New Jersey the 19th state to join Engage Cuba, a D.C.-based advocacy organization dedicated to advancing federal legislation to lift the embargo on Cuba.

The bipartisan state council includes State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-13th District; Assembly Speaker Pro-Tempore Gordon Johnson, D-37th District; Trenton mayor Reed Gusciora; and Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey president Anthony Russo.

At a time when New Jersey is facing a billion-dollar budget shortfall and certain industries fall victim to trade disputes, opening up new markets is the key to strengthening New Jersey’s economy.

“Many of us in New Jersey have close ties with the Cuban people, and we should foster that connection. Both countries have so much to offer each other,” said Johnson, an early supporter of President Barak Obama’s diplomatic rapprochement plan. “We cannot allow the economic and social isolation of the Cuban people to prevent us from continuing to advocate for our interests in Cuba—like the return of Joanne Chesimard.”

New Jersey is home to approximately 100,000 Cuban Americans. Nearly 70 percent of New Jerseyans favor the U.S. engaging more directly with Cuba, according to a poll by the nonpartisan Atlantic Council.

“Removing trade restrictions on Cuba could bring new opportunities to New Jersey’s top export industries while creating jobs across the state. At a time when New Jersey is facing a billion-dollar budget shortfall and certain industries fall victim to trade disputes, opening up new markets is the key to strengthening New Jersey’s economy,” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba. “But in order to create that boost for New Jersey’s industries and improve the lives of the Cuban people, Congress must lift arbitrary trade and travel restrictions that prevent U.S. competition in Cuban markets.”

With the country’s third-largest container port, New Jersey has a unique opportunity to export goods and services from a wide variety of industries to Cuba. Lifting the embargo would not only help New Jersey’s shipping industry, but many of its top manufacturing industries, like chemical products, machinery and computers.

In addition to New Jersey, Engage Cuba has launched state councils in 18 other states including Arkansas, Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

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