August 11, 2005

August 11, 2005

Four years ago I went to Cuba with an agricultural trade team. We were hoping to help open that market for U. S. farmers. We weren't alone. Farm organizations, members of Congress from rural states and trading companies worked to relax our trade embargo policy. In the end we were successful. We opened the door to sell our farm products to Cuba: from zero exports in 2000 to 400 million dollars in 2004.

But this past February, that door was slammed shut. The U.S. Treasury Dept. issued new regulations that made the sales almost impossible, requiring payment before shipment. Once again, farm organizations and grain trading companies such as ADM rallied the Congress and turned up the heat on the administration. It got pretty hot in the kitchen, and Treasury backed down.

For the U.S. to continue to try and force change in Cuba by denying trade, commercial relationship, and travel is the most senseless, counterproductive and inconsistent policy imaginable.

I don't love Castro. But I'm not afraid of him either. That old man with a beard ninety miles from Florida benefits from our policy to isolate him. He can blame us for his own short-comings. We are the one in isolation. All other countries do business with Cuba -- Canada, Mexico, all of Europe, China and on and on. Also, look at how inconsistent we are: we trade with China and Vietnam, both communist countries, but not Cuba

Castro will be gone one of these days. If we had trade and commercial ties with Cuba, we would be in a much better position to influence their next government.

After more than 40 years, we still refuse to admit that our policy of isolation has been a failure.

Until next week, I am Jack Block from Washington.