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Capitalizing on Cuban changes

Capitalizing on Cuban changes
As U.S. revises the terms of engagement with Cuba, Colorado interests
are wise to position themselves to make the most of it.
By The Denver Post
Posted: 07/28/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT

Helping Colorado agricultural interests develop trade ties with Cuba is
a smart move, and one that seems likely to pay dividends as the United
States pursues broader relations with the nation.

For decades, U.S. policy regarding Cuba could be summed up in two
phrases — economic and political isolation. However, there has
been a noticeable thaw in Cuban relations, particularly in recent
months, as the Obama administration has loosened restrictions on family
travel and remittances.

And measures pending in Congress have the potential for an even greater
impact, particularly for and agricultural interests.

That's why we think the Colorado Department is acting wisely
in soliciting estimates for, in essence, a middle man who could connect
Colorado ag interests with Cuban buyers.

Cubans, it seems, have a taste for hard red winter wheat. Colorado
produces a lot of it, and producers are hopeful in getting a greater
share of the Cuban market.

Tim Larsen, the state Agriculture Department's senior international
marketing specialist, said that last year Cuba bought $12 million in
seed potatoes from the Netherlands.

"Our potato industry is saying, 'We'd be interested in that,' " Larsen said.

Larsen said the idea in soliciting estimates is to create long-term
marketing opportunities for Colorado agriculture. Larsen said there
isn't a plan for who — producers, processors, industry groups or
government — would foot the bill for such assistance.

Colorado is trying to position itself to broker an agricultural deal
with Cuba as Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas have. But given the state's
financial troubles, industry should foot the bill.

The challenge for the Obama administration will be to balance the
interests of those, such as Colorado agriculture, who want to end or
weaken the embargo and those who see any relations with Cuba as
concessions to a dictatorship.

Nearly five decades ago, at the height of the Cold War, the U.S. imposed
a trade embargo on Cuba, hoping to push and his communist
government from power.

But as the ensuing decades have shown, the embargo has pinched the Cuban
people and American farmers while the Castros remain firmly ensconced in
power. Fidel Castro has formally transferred power to his brother, Raul,
in recent years.

By and large, the rest of the world allows travel and trade with Cuba,
and so should the U.S. Furthermore, if American tourists were allowed to
travel to Cuba, it would increase Cuban demand for commodities to wine
and dine the visitors.

There also are post-Cold War opportunities for the two governments to
cooperate on matters of regional security, migration and drug
trafficking. One issue that will remain problematic, just as it has with
other U.S. trading partners, is .

The Obama administration must make clear that broader engagement doesn't
mean the U.S. condones Cuba's poor record on human rights. It likely
will be a constant thorn, just as it has been with , for instance.

As the Obama administration and federal lawmakers revise the terms of
engagement with Cuba, Colorado interests are wise to position themselves
to make the most of the historic change in relations.

Capitalizing on Cuban changes – The Denver Post (28 July 2009)

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