Berry returns from Cuba optimistic about trade
Tuesday, Jun 5, 2007
By Aaron Sadler
Stephens Washington Bureau
Rep. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, on Monday called on Congress to ease trade
barriers that limit U.S.-grown foods sold to Cuba after returning from a
trip to the communist nation.
Berry and four other lawmakers spent five days in Cuba last week in
conjunction with that country's annual meeting with American
About $118 million in food contracts were signed during the meeting,
which included 250 food producers and processors from across the nation,
He said more American exports could be sent to Cuba if Congress were to
loosen trade barriers in place since the 1960s.
An embargo on food and medicine exports was lifted a few years ago, but
problems remain because Cuba is required to pay for shipments in cash up
front, Berry said.
Additionally, ships that dock in Cuba face a months-long ban from U.S.
He said he plans to seek a legislative fix for some of the food-trade
Rice is a key Cuban import. However, only a fifth of rice sent to Cuba
last year was from the United States.
With its location and safe, abundant food supply, the United States
should be a natural choice to meet Cuba's food needs, Berry said.
"I think the Cuban people realize they're going to have to depend on
someone for a serious part of their food supply for a long, long time,
and they'd rather get it from the U.S. than anyone else," he said.
There should not be sanctions on food, despite Fidel Castro's
totalitarian regime, he added.
"I never thought it was legitimate with any country to withhold food
from them for political reasons," Berry said.
Camila Gallardo, spokeswoman for the Miami-based Cuban American National
Foundation, said the anti-Castro group does not support congressional
trips to Cuba for the purpose of trade negotiations.
"That kind of trip just seeks to expand the economic relationship and
completely ignores the fact that Cuba continues to violate the most
basic civil rights of its citizens," Gallardo said.
Berry was joined by Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Rodney Alexander,
R-La., Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and Bob Etheridge, D-N.C.
It marked Berry's second trip to Cuba. He first visited in 2000.