McCaskill Travels To Cuba, Hopes To Push Agricultural Trade
By JIM HOWARD
If U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Gov. Jay Nixon get their way,
Cubans will soon be dining on Missouri-grown rice, corn, pork, poultry
and soy products while driving pickup trucks manufactured in the state.
The two are aggressively pushing to open Cuba to trade following
President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will
normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.
As Congress leaves Washington for a week-long break, McCaskill and two
other U.S. senators are heading to Cuba for four days of meetings with
government officials, citizens and small business owners.
“We certainly can compete with any of the countries that are currently
providing commodities to Cuba, particularly our rice,” McCaskill told
St. Louis Public Radio Thursday. “We’re right on the Mississippi, we can
put it on a barge, and it can almost be in Cuba by nightfall.”
For McCaskill, the trip has two primary objectives. “I’m hoping that I
will be able to determine what, if any, barriers remain and then share
that with our commodity producers in Missouri, who are all going down
(to Cuba) in March,” McCaskill said.
Nixon is set to lead a trade mission to Cuba with several of the state’s
agricultural organizations early next month. He’s also taking the lead
among U.S. governors in promoting agricultural trade to improve
relations between the two countries quickly. In January, Nixon helped
launch a coalition of about 30 agricultural organizations and business
groups to push Congress to back the president’s plans.
For her part, McCaskill has spent much of the last week doing her
homework and reaching out to the state’s agricultural interests ahead of
“I’ve got a big briefing book and I’ve begun to slog through it.”
McCaskill said. She also met Thursday with the chief of the Cuban
Interest Section, Dr. Jose Ramon Cabanas Rodriquez, in Washington.
While the U.S. and Cuba do not yet have full diplomatic relations, they
do host so-called Interest Sections in each other’s capital. The offices
handle many of the same functions as embassies but lack the full legal
distinctions and recognition that embassies enjoy.
Besides promoting Missouri agricultural products to government
officials, McCaskill and the other senators are scheduled to meet with
Cuban citizens and small business owners “and talk privately about what
life is like for them. The entrepreneurs are trying to make their way
through a very difficult regime in terms of being able to get out from
underneath government control.”
On Capitol Hill, McCaskill has a reputation of asking direct, sometimes
pointed questions of federal officials and witnesses who appear before
Senate committees. While she says that she does have some “probing
questions” to ask that “might be a little uncomfortable” for individuals
in Cuba, she says she also plans to “keep in mind that I’m a guest of
Cuba, but I’m representing America. So, I want to be polite and show
them that we have good manners” she says, with a laugh.
McCaskill says she wants to know “how isolated” Cubans are from each
other and the rest of the world. “Why is the internet not as robust in
Cuba as it should be? Is that because (of) the ability to control what
citizens learn, or is it a technical problem or a lack of capability on
The trip is being organized by the Centers for Democracy in the
Americas, but McCaskill says she and her husband, who will be joining
her on the trip, are paying their own way.
The group is among only a handful of lawmakers to visit Cuba since the
president announced his new policy. McCaskill is scheduled to return to
the United States on Tuesday.
Source: McCaskill Travels To Cuba, Hopes To Push Agricultural Trade |
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