Following an announcement Wednesday, the U.S. plans to open an embassy in Cuba. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said the gradual thaw in relations with the Communist nation bodes well for Minnesota industry.
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"What it means to the people of the Midwest is more economic opportunity," she said.
Klobuchar introduced the "Freedom to Export to Cuba Act " earlier this year to lift the current embargo, designed to allow more U.S. goods to be exported to Cuba. The bill, which has a bipartisan group of 17 cosponsors, would eliminate the legal barriers to Americans doing business in Cuba, boosting job creation and exports, Klobuchar said in a news release.
During a phone press conference Wednesday, Klobuchar said essentially any Minnesota company doing business abroad could benefit from the opportunities open trade with Cuba would present.
In particular, Minnesota's agricultural industry stands to profit from an embargo lift because of the strong demand in Cuba for food imports, Klobuchar said.
"We have agriculture all across northern Minnesota, from our soybeans to the timber industry, paper production," she said. "The immediate need will be food and agriculture."
Minnesota already does $20 million in sales to Cuba through an exemption for humanitarian trade in the embargo, Klobuchar said, because agricultural products help ease Cuban food shortages.
In addition to imports, Cubans want to develop their own agriculture and infrastructure, which Minnesota companies like Cargill could help with, Klobuchar said.
There's also strong potential for the technology industry, she said. Klobuchar recently traveled to Cuba for a trade mission, and she said her personal experience trying to use technology during her trip made the lack of tech infrastructure abundantly clear.
"Having been there, and tried to make a cell phone call ... I (can) tell you the potential market that's there," she said.
The release pointed out Klobuchar's embargo-lift bill does not repeal provisions of current law that address human rights in Cuba or that allow individuals and businesses to pursue claims against the Cuban government.
Klobuchar also highlighted her support of legislation to lift the Cuba travel ban.
"I also know that people in northern Minnesota sometimes like to get to warm-weather places, as it was 41 degrees below zero in International Falls without wind chill just this last year," she joked. "Obviously, there's going to be people interested in traveling and seeing Cuba."