Cuba Trade Would Be Good for North Dakota

International Trade Commissions says Havana would buy $300 million in farm exports.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson says the findings of the International Trade Commission on trade with Cuba vindicate those who advocate the lifting of the current trade and travel restrictions against the Caribbean nation.

"The ITC report clearly shows that American agriculture would benefit enormously if trade with Cuba was normalized," says Johnson, who has led six trade delegations to Cuba in recent years. "We are talking about an annual increase of $300 million in farm exports, including $72 million in wheat sales."

"In particular, requiring the Cubans to pay for our agriculture products in cash or through letters of credit drawn on third-country banks does nothing but raise our costs and limit our sales," Johnson said. "Thanks to that and all the other restrictions, we have simply shot ourselves in the foot, rather than influence any positive changes in Cuba."

The ITC report, "U.S. Agricultural Sales to Cuba: Certain Economic Effects of U.S. Restrictions," was released today. It examined the impact of legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus-MT that would reduce restrictions on U.S.-Cuba agricultural trade and lift the travel band to and from Cuba.

Johnson, who was the lead witness in May at the ITC hearing on the impact of U.S. restrictions on agricultural trade with Cuba, said North Dakota in particular could be a major beneficiary of a change in policy.

"North Dakota has established strong and friendly relations with Cuban food and trade officials and has already negotiated more than $30 million in business," he says. "The Cubans want the commodities we offer, especially beans, potatoes, peas and wheat, and they have proven trustworthy trading partners, even under the constraints forced by our government."

"I believe all sanctions should be removed," Johnson says. "It is time we ended our misguided policy of 40 years, so U.S. producers can access that market and benefit from resumed trade relations. More importantly, we need to normalize relations to foster capitalism and democracy among the Cuban people."

Source: North Dakota Department of Agriculture

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