Changing course on trade with Cuba moves slowly

Changing course on trade with Cuba moves slowly

Charlie Norris is looking at a large crop, low prices and tight margins. Grain ex­­ports are better than expected, but multi-national trade agreements are stalled.

Norris, who grows corn and soybeans near Mason City would welcome a new market — even if it’s small.

He has one in mind: Cuba. Norris, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation District 2 director, visited there in March 2015 with a group of agribusiness and farm leaders. Since his return, he’s followed the series of U.S.-Cuba executive steps to normalize relations and the signing of a memorandum to build a framework to exchange agricultural research and information.

Does he see momentum building?

"It’s not the movement I hoped for," Norris says. "I am encouraged to see more Americans traveling to Cuba and talking about opportunities to open more trade. But it just seems slow."

Cuba, a country of 11.2 million people, imports about $2 billion in food annually. Tourism will be a major driver in future increases. A record-breaking 3 million people have traveled to Cuba in 2015, with U.S. visitors growing by 77 percent. Some 900 private restaurants have opened in Havana. Cuba’s limited domestic production means that food for this expanding market will have to be imported.

The Trade Sanctions Reform Act of 2000 (TSRA) allows the United...

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