Kansas senators lead efforts to open Cuban trade



June 15, 2015 - 12:00 AM

To their credit, U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran are at the forefront of reestablishing U.S. relations with Cuba.
The two Kansas senators see a direct benefit for their home state if relations, especially in trade, resume. Cuba, whose antiquated agricultural program forces it to import 80 percent of its food, would have its eye on Kansas wheat, in particular.
Even if respective embassies open in July, as planned, a trade embargo will remain. Only Congress has the power to lift the embargo. Holdouts against normalization of relations say as long as there is a Castro in power, Cuba should be kept as a sponsor of terrorism.
Sounds more like settling personal vendettas than a wish for progress.
As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Roberts was in Havana this weekend meeting with Cuba’s second in command, Miguel Diaz Canel, who is expected to succeed President Raul Castro if he steps down as planned in 2018.
Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona deserves the credit for instigating the trip. Also on board was Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Respective embassies are expected to open in July. A flagpole has already been planted on the grounds of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which has served as a quasi-embassy for the last five decades.

EFFORTS to further isolate Cuba will only backfire on the United States. The rest of the world has moved on past a Cold War mentality and deals openly with the small island nation.
With it only 90 miles off our shores, Cuba is a natural trading partner for the United States.
In 2014, Cuba bought $150 million worth of wheat from countries in the European Union. As Cuba engages with other countries, we are the ones missing out on trade and diplomatic opportunities.
On the flip side, opening trade relations will help impoverished Cubans who have been held back by their country’s policies limiting private enterprise. A full 90 percent of Cuban jobs are state-run operations, and are paid a pittance. Most Cubans rely on remittances from family members abroad to stay afloat.
Opening the doors to free trade would be a boon to both countries.
The sooner Congress sees the light, the better.
— Susan Lynn

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