With President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Cuba still on the minds of most Americans, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recently sent a letter to congressional officials U.S. asking them to pass legislation to end the 56-year old trade embargo with the Caribbean nation.
Linda Dempsey, vice president of international economic affairs for the nation’s largest manufacturing trade group, recently sent a letter to U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., and Kathy Castor, D-Fla., thanking them for introducing and support bipartisan legislation that would allow U.S. companies to trade directly with Cuba. Dempsey’s letter also pushes for Congress to advance the Cuba Trade Act of 2015, which would repeal the embargo than has been in place since 1960.
“Eliminating the trade embargo on Cuba will allow for increased economic activity between the two nations and provide manufacturers with new access to a market less than 100 miles from our shores. As the largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba is well positioned to become a market for U.S. goods and services,” Dempsey writes in the March 23 letter.
Dempsey said NAM recently formed the Cuba Policy Working Group to look into legislative solutions, including lifting trade and travel bans between the two countries, making it simpler for Americans to engage with Cuban citizens and allowing companies and individuals in the United States to support the growth of private enterprise in Cuba.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has also pushed Arkansas’ Congressional leaders support legislation that would help open the Cuban economy to Arkansas products. The Republican governor made a three-day trade trip to Cuba in the fall where said he was hopeful that recent efforts will continue to move forward to open credit markets and remove travel restrictions, and expedite possible deals between Arkansas’ agriculture, manufacturing and poultry sector and the island country.
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, is also a member of a congressional Cuba Working Group with Emmer and Castor that was formed to improve relations between the United States and Cuba. Crawford said the 10-member working group is bipartisan and geographically and politically diverse. It includes representation from Florida, which traditionally has been home to a large Cuban immigrant community strongly opposed to having normal relations with Cuba as long as the Castro regime is in power. He said trade with Cuba traditionally has been viewed through the lens of the Cold War, but instead of punishing the Castro regime, it punished American producers.
Crawford has introduced a bill, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, that would end restrictions on financing for exports to Cuba, give producers access to Department of Agriculture marketing programs, and allow unlimited investment in private Cuban agribusiness. The measure could be included in upcoming appropriations bills, though he said that was difficult to do in this political environment.