Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bill to boost trade with Cuba faces long odds

Bill to boost trade with Cuba faces long odds
Senate ag-export bill would ease credit restrictions, helping trade
Farm state lawmakers of both parties see benefit to more Cuba sales
House and Senate setting stage for conference conflict

Legislation designed to boost agricultural trade with Cuba passed out of
a Senate committee last week, joining a separate bill that would ease
restrictions on travel to the island.

But for those interested in a return to full trade and travel between
the U.S. and Cuba, the actions last week represent only a sliver of hope
that the mood of Congress is thawing as much as President Barack Obama
would like.

The Cuban flag is seen after being raised over the re-opened Cuban
embassy in Washington, Monday, July 20, 2015. Cuba's blue, red and
white-starred flag was hoisted Monday at the country's embassy in
Washington in a symbolic move signaling the start of a new post-Cold War
era in U.S.-Cuba relations. | PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS AP
"I'm more optimistic that the pressure is increasing to do something in
Congress," said Carl Meacham, a former senior Republican aide on the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee who serves as director of the
Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But what happens because of that pressure is dependent on a range of
issues – from the attitude of Senate leadership to the dynamics of
presidential politics, he said. And then the measures will have to go
through the House of Representatives as well.

"And I don't see the House going the way of the Senate," Meacham said.

The legislation last week was sponsored by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.,
and represents one of the strategies lawmakers are employing to boost
trade with Cuba.

In December, leaders in the U.S. and Cuba announced a thawing of
relations between the two nations after decades of limited trade, travel
and diplomacy. While some aspects of trade and travel with the island
nation have been loosened, many other restrictions remain.

Lawmakers are pushing to free travel and trade, while others – led by
South Florida lawmakers such as Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican
presidential candidate – have marshaled forces into a camp dedicated to
seeing current restrictions stay put.

The Heitkamp legislation could thread the needle between pro- and
anti-change forces, Meacham said.

Her legislation, which was attached to an appropriations bill, would
ease a legal prohibition on providing credit for exports to Cuba. That,
Heitkamp said, is the biggest barrier that North Dakota and other farm
states face when trying to export to the island nation.

Source: Bill to boost trade with Cuba faces long odds | Miami Herald -

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