Havana Dreaming

Friday, 30 July 2010


The American business and agriculture lobbies, which have long supported more trade with Cuba, feel they have a potential ally in President Obama, who early in his term lifted travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban-Americans. Now the lobbyists are cranking up pressure on Congress. Faced with the threat of a double-dip recession, American producers are desperate to tap new markets. A numberof pro-business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Foreign Trade Council, have declared this a “key vote”—one they’ll take into account when compiling their annual scorecards of lawmakers.

The bill would give American exporters a boost by removing onerous financial restrictions on deals with Cuba. Farmers havebeen selling food products—poultry, soybeans, corn, wheat—to Cuba since2000, when Congress passed a law permitting such commerce. The U.S. quickly became the island’s largest supplier of agricultural imports. Yet because of financial restrictions imposed by American law—like a requirement to use third-country banks for payment—Cuba has been turningin recent years to other providers, such as Brazil and China.

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