Daily Report for Executives provides in-depth coverage of unfolding legislative, regulatory, and judicial news from the nation’s capital, the states, and around the world. This daily news service...
By Casey Wooten
Dec. 1 — Legislative progress on expanding agricultural trade with Cuba is probably on hold until President-elect Donald Trump further details his policy for the island nation, the top lawmaker on the House Agriculture Committee said.
Following the Nov. 25 death of long-time Cuban leader Fidel Castro, President-elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of his administration reversing the relaxation of travel and diplomatic ties to the country. Trump’s rhetoric could dampen the hopes of some in the agriculture industry to advance legislation easing trade restrictions with the country.
“I think it’s all up to Trump, and until he makes a call one way or the other, I think just about everything’s on hold, so we’ll probably take our cues from what he decides what he wants to do because the president’s an important cog in that whole conversation,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) told Bloomberg BNA.
Trump has said he opposes the “one-sided” deals President Barack Obama has struck with the Cuban government and, as in other aspects of his foreign policy, said he would reverse the detente with Cuba unless the Castro regime satisfied additional U.S. demands.
“If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban-American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate [the] deal,” Trump tweeted Nov. 28.
Cuba is highly dependent on imports to feed its population, and U.S. agribusiness views the country as a prime export market. In 2015, the U.S. exported $149 million in agricultural goods to Cuba, down sharply from the high of $685 million in 2008, according to the Congressional Research Service. That drop is blamed partly on U.S. credit restrictions when trading with Cuba.
Though many are waiting on a definitive statement from Trump on Cuba policy, Conaway said that the groundwork for easing certain agricultural trade restrictions would probably continue at the committee level.
The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, which would lift restrictions preventing U.S. agricultural companies from providing credit to Cuban entities to purchase agricultural goods, would probably be reintroduced early in the next Congress, Conaway, who backs the bill, said.
The bill, introduced in 2015 by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), would lift restrictions put in place by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (Pub. L. No. 106-387). While that legislation opened certain U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba, it placed restrictions on extending financing to Cuban entities. Cuban buyers must pay in advance and in cash for U.S. agricultural products, and third-party banks must process the transactions.
Though Crawford’s bill got a hearing this year, it never advanced out of committee or was attached to broader legislation that passed Congress. What happens to the bill next year will hinge greatly on Trump’s stance toward the Cuban government, Conaway said.
“He’s really in the catbird’s seat on that whole issue,” Conaway told Bloomberg BNA.
Congress aside, Trump could unilaterally roll back some of the changes made by the Obama administration on trade policy with Cuba.
For example, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in March that his department would green-light agricultural checkoff funds to be used for research and promotion programs in Cuba. Checkoff funds are collected from producers of a particular commodity to be used for industry-wide promotion.
But Lee Ann Evans, senior policy adviser at Engage Cuba, a Washington-based group that advocates for lifting the trade embargo, said he had hopes that Trump’s pro-business positions during the campaign will translate to a pragmatic approach on Cuba policy.
“We are really optimistic that Trump is going to continue along with his policy that he ran on of creating jobs and eliminating government overreach,” Evans told Bloomberg BNA.
Evans also said it’s likely the Cuba agricultural trade bill will make another appearance, and said that her group has been adding legislators to its roster of supporters.
“We’ve made progress in Congress and that’s where the real change needs to take place,” she said. “We have public opinion on our side, and that’s not going to turn around.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Casey Wooten in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at email@example.com
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)