The thaw between the U.S. and Cuba — with opportunities aplenty at stake for Minnesota — made another splash Tuesday.
The Obama administration announced the easing of travel and commerce restrictions against Cuba. The restrictions had been “a major impediment to commerce between the United States and the island nation,” according to the New York Times.
“This announcement is an important step toward bringing the United States’ relationship with Cuba into the 21st century,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said in a statement to news outlets, including the News Tribune Opinion page. “The next step is for Congress to pass my bipartisan bill to lift the over 50-year embargo so that we can boost U.S. exports and allow Cubans greater access to American goods.”
Klobuchar’s Freedom to Export to Cuba Act, cosponsored by 22 others in the Senate, including Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, would lift, once and for all, the trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba that has been in place since 1960.
“Our opportunities are to sell them agricultural technology and know-how and also to sell them food,” Franken said in an interview last summer with the News Tribune editorial board. Tourism, too, is an economic opportunity for Minnesota in Cuba, Franken, Klobuchar and others say.
The thaw between the U.S. and Cuba started unexpectedly with a prisoner swap late in 2014. It continued last year with the openings of a Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C., and a U.S. embassy in Havana. Last May, the Minnesota Orchestra became the first from the U.S. to travel to and perform in Cuba in more than 50 years.
While Klobuchar’s bill would knock down legal barriers to Americans doing business in Cuba and reopen vacation travel between the countries, it wouldn’t repeal current laws that address Cuban human-rights concerns.
As long as such concerns aren’t ignored or left unaddressed in any rush to cash in on a U.S.-Cuba thaw, opportunities for Minnesota and our nation as a whole can continue to be seized.