Wednesday, March 11, 2015

McCaskill: Lifting Cuban trade embargo would be boon for Missouri agriculture

(From Sen. Claire McCaskill)

Since the U.S. and Cuban governments announced they would normalize relations, there's been a lot of talk about what that could mean - for the politics of both countries, and for agricultural and job opportunities in Missouri.

On a walk through a working class neighborhood in Havana - without the "supervision" of Cuban government officials - I met a woman who recently left a job at a state-managed company after saving enough money to buy a used sewing machine. There, in her five-by-six foot living room, this woman was making history.

She is one of the first generation of small business owners allowed to operate since Fidel Castro stepped down from power.

Is she frustrated with her government? Yes. Anxious about what the future holds for her country? Yes. But, what trumps those concerns is the pride she feels being her own boss.

View more photos from my trip, HERE

Lifting the trade embargo against Cuba - an embargo we've employed for a half-century with nothing to show for it - would be a boon for Missouri agriculture.

Before my trip, I had detailed talks with the Missouri Rice Producers Association, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Poultry Federation, and Missouri Soybean Association - Missourians who could greatly benefit from expanded trade with Cuba.

But lifting the embargo would also strip the Castro regime of its biggest excuse for why its people aren't free and prosperous.

And the embargo is a strategy that has isolated America as well as Cuba. That point was driven home over a lunch I shared in Havana with some ambassadors to Cuba from America's strategic allies. Germany, Brazil, Spain, Norway, Sweden - these governments have an official relationship with the Cuban government, and have engaged in economic trade, while applying pressure on behalf of human rights and economic freedom.

Those are some of the reasons I'm signing on as a supporter of the bipartisanFreedom to Export to Cuba Act - legislation to end the embargo.

By far, the biggest surprise in Cuba for me was the warmth and affection the Cuban people have for America. The hope for a new day is palpable.

Back in the Senate, I'm working to make that new day a reality, for the benefit of Missouri business, and for the future of the Cuban people.

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