The governors of nine predominantly-agricultural US states asked Congress to lift the embargo on Cuba, given the importance of that country as a prospective market for many US food products.
In a letter signed last Friday and released yesterday (14 October), the governors of Alabama, California, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington said that the embargo prevents them from benefitting from new business opportunities available on the communist island.
“We write to share our support for an end to current trade sanctions levied against Cuba,” said the governors in their letter, which they sent to Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“It is time for Congress to take action and remove the financial, travel, and other restrictions that impede normal commerce and trade between our nation and Cuba,” they added.
The governors noted that, since in 2000 for the first time in 40 years sales of food products to Cuba were permitted with certain restrictions, “Cuba has become an important market for many American agricultural commodities … but a sustainable trade relationship cannot be limited to one sector or involve only one-way transactions.”
The US farm sector has complained on numerous occasions about the difficulties presented by the embargo on the communist island, above all concerning the prevailing financial restrictions.
Cuban imports 80% of its food and constitutes a $1.7 billion market annually.
“Foreign competitors such as Canada, Brazil, and the European Union are increasingly taking market share from US industry (in Cuba), as these countries do not face the same restrictions on financing,” the governors said.
“Ending the embargo will create jobs here at home, especially in rural America, and will create new opportunities for U.S. agriculture,” which is experiencing “tremendous momentum” in its exports.
In 2014, US agricultural exports totalled $152 billion, they said.
The letter was signed by Governors Terry McAuliffe (Virginia), Jay Inslee (Washington), Thomas Wolf (Pennsylvania), Steve Bullock (Montana), Mark Dayton (Minnesota), Butch Otter (Idaho), Robert Bentley (Alabama), Jerry Brown (California) and Peter Shumlin (Vermont).
Since 1996, EU policy toward Cuba has been guided by the so-called Common Position, which rules out full relations with Havana until it makes reforms in areas such as more diverse political participation and freedom of expression.
The EU suspended talks with Cuba in 2003 after Havana launched a crackdown and jailed 75 dissidents in a direct response to calls for liberalisation and greater respect for human rights.
It was only in 2008 that the EU started lifting some sanctions unilaterally, the year Fidel Castro retired from the presidency permanently and power passed to his younger brother Raul.