Friday, June 24, 2016

Texas ag embraces trade with Cuba

Texas ag embraces trade with Cuba
Posted: Yesterday 11:43 a.m.

In the push for free trade with Cuba, Texas has managed to sell rice and
other states have sold soybean oil. In turn, we have bought some coffee,
but what we really want are those Cuban cigars, John Block, former U.S.
secretary of agriculture, said.

Meanwhile, leaders in business and agriculture, including the Waco-based
Texas Farm Bureau, have joined forces to create the Engage Cuba Texas
State Council, which will push to have travel and trade restrictions
abolished with the island country 90 miles from Florida.

"Agricultural exports contribute about 25 percent to the income of
farmers and ranchers, so you can see the importance of foreign trade
with other countries, including Cuba," said Glen Jones, director of
research and policy development for the Texas Farm Bureau.

The goal is to give farmers and manufacturers a multibillion-dollar
economic nudge by permitting the sale of products to Cuba, according to
a news release.

"Texas is a leading economic driver for the U.S. economy and opening up
trade with Cuba would provide tremendous opportunities for businesses
across the state," Engage Cuba President James Williams said in a
statement on the council's creation recently. "However, Texans are stuck
on the sidelines as our foreign competitors continue to take advantage
of Cuba's growing markets."

Cuba depends heavily on agricultural imports, which average $2 billion
annually, "and this number will continue to grow given the increasing
purchasing power of 11 million Cubans," said Jenifer Sarver, a
spokeswoman for the Engage Cuba Texas State Council.

"There is also an immediate need for infrastructure improvements to meet
the rising demand of foreign travelers. Texas is well-positioned to help
meet these and other needs on the island," Sarver said.

"Given the size of Cuba, it won't be huge, but potentially very
lucrative," said Waco-based economist Ray Perryman. "Cuba has demands
for petroleum and petrochemical products, technology, machinery, food
products, professional services and other major Texas exports."

In addition to Texas, Engage Cuba has begun state councils in Georgia,
Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana.

"This (50 year) embargo costs the United States $1.2 billion annually,"
Sarver said. "Removing trade barriers "could mean big opportunities to
agriculture in Texas, which produces rice, soybeans, beans and corn,
which the Cuban people really need. As more people travel to Cuba, more
food will be needed for visitors."

The Engage Cuba coalition is pushing for passage of three pieces of

The Agricultural Export Expansion Act of 2015, which has six Texas
co-sponsors, would allow American farmers to offer financing to Cuban
importers to promote sales.

The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act would expand Cuba's already growing
markets and provide additional opportunities for U.S. agribusiness to
export to Cuba.

The Cuba Trade Act of 2015 would permit private-sector industries in
the United States to export goods and services to Cuba.

"We can't take the trade wall down without legislation," Block said.
"The same goes for other trade agreements. We are in the process of
negotiating a trade agreement with the European Union. We have just
completed an agreement with 11 other countries on the Trans Pacific
Partnership. That agreement now needs to be approved by the countries

"Unfortunately, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both dead set
against it (TPP). The chance of our Congress passing it before the
November election is next to zero. After the election, we shall see.
U.S. Trade Ambassador Michael Froman warns that 'if we get an agreement,
it's not just what we stand to gain; it's what we stand to lose if we
don't get one.' "

Source: Texas ag embraces trade with Cuba -

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