Crawford Keeps Cuba Conversations on Course

Jun 01, 2017
Cuba focus
Rep.-Rick-Crawford-& Cuba
WASHINGTON, DC – Arkansas Congressman Rick Crawford, long a leader advocating for changing course on U.S.-Cuba policy has previously introduced legislation to help normalize trade relations between the countries.  Despite his efforts, and the support of the U.S. rice industry, earlier legislation has not advanced.  Crawford is now pushing for a compromise solution he struck with Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) that will keep the discussion about Cuba moving forward.

The bill calls for the implementation of new fee on certain agriculture exports to Cuba that would amount to a 2 percent excise tax.  Money collected would go to the U.S. Treasury Department and be used to pay claims of U.S. companies and citizens who say they lost property as a result of the Communist take-over of Cuba some 58 years ago.  

The recognition of aggrieved “certified claimants” and the proposed method of repaying them is considered a compromise to keep anti-Castro Members of Congress talking about trade normalization.

“If that’s what it takes to keep the issue moving forward in Congress, then that’s what it takes, and we’re with the Congressman,” said Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs.  “Paying two percent on some trade is better than paying nothing on no trade at all.”

Mosely said that despite advances toward normalization of trade between the U.S. and Cuba in recent years, it appeared the door was being slammed shut by hardliners in Congress and the new Administration.  “Congressman Crawford has wedged his foot in the door to keep it open, and that’s good news,” he said.

Prior to the U.S. embargo, Cuba was the number one export market for U.S. rice, however, no U.S. rice has been sold to Cuba since 2008.  U.S. rice is quite popular on the Island due to superior taste, cooking qualities, and logistical advantages over other suppliers, and USA Rice has said they believe Cuba could once again become a top market as soon as the many export and financial restrictions that stand in the way are lifted.