US agriculture chief in Cuba as ties warm
Havana (AFP) – The United States’ agriculture secretary was in Cuba on
Wednesday to speed up efforts at normalizing trade ties after decades of
enmity between the old Cold War foes.
The neighbors agreed to right relations in December after more than 50
years of highly tense ties including the Cuban Missile Crisis, which
brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
Tom Vilsack is the third member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet to
visit after Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny
Vilsack and Council of Ministers Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas
discussed trade issues, the US farm sector and “obstacles to trade,” a
statement read out on Cuban television said.
It was not announced how long Vilsack will be on the communist island.
While full diplomatic ties have been restored, the US economic sanctions
in its trade embargo largely remain in place because the Republican-run
Congress has to vote to end it.
Bilateral trade was $390 million in 2014, despite the sanctions Cuba
says is “strangling” it.
Under embargo loopholes, Cuba since 2001 has been allowed to buy US
food, but only in cash. It cannot sell goods to the United States.
US farm states are eager to boost their exports to the island, but the
Americas’ only Communist state has very little access to credit, other
than from allies China or Venezuela.
In Cuba’s Soviet-style top-down system, state focus on farming long
concentrated largely on exports instead of growing enough food to feed
Cuba’s 11 million people.
Source: US agriculture chief in Cuba as ties warm – Yahoo News –