US legislators call for improved access to Cuban markets

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/nirodesign
© iStock/nirodesign

Related tags: Export

A bipartisan group of US legislators is calling for an expansion of trade engagement with Cuba and the lifting of a trade embargo, a move that has seen support from some US feed and grain groups.

The group of senators, including sponsor Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minnesota) and 13 co-sponsors, filed a bill to address regulations seen as restricting the trade agricultural products like feed ingredients between the US and Cuba.

The bill, Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2017, was introduced to the US Senate at the end of May with the goal of boosting exports of agricultural products like feed ingredients.

A related group of senators also wrote​ to the US State Department earlier this week to urge continued engagement.

Several feed and grain organizations have supported​ efforts to engage with Cuba and to expand interaction with potential​ markets in the country. Earlier this year, members wrote​ the Trump Administration asking for support and to improve the trade relationship with Cuba.

Although the potential market is close to the US geographically, it faces challenges, said Max Fisher, director of economics and government relations with the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA). “Cuba is a 3m metric ton import market for grain and oilseeds that’s right next to the US, yet it’s served by our export competitors located thousands of miles further away,”​ he added.

“US agriculture competes very well when level trading conditions exist,”​ he told FeedNavigator. “This a unique situation in which the US can remove the trade barriers on its own.”

The NGFA is one of several feed and grain groups involved with the US Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC). Other members​ include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Industry Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, North American Export Grain Association, US Canola Association and the US Grains Council.

Challenges to trade

However, there are challenges that remain to be addressed before the US could look to expand agricultural exports to Cuba, said Fisher.

“The first item that needs to be addressed is the lifting of the export credit restriction,” ​he said. “The lifting of these credit restrictions is needed to level the playing field.”

Currently, US producers operate at a disadvantage in that market, he said. “The current ban on offering terms of credit and requiring U.S. agricultural products to be purchased using cash or through third-party guarantees from foreign banks has put the U.S at a disadvantage to key competitors,”​ he added.

Bill specifics

The bill addresses regulation that impose direct restriction on trade with Cuba, according to the document. If enacted, it would make such restriction ineffective.

However, it would allow for the establishment of export controls related to sections of the export administration act of 1979.

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