Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Tom Emmer
There is a port just 90 miles from our shore. It’s brand new, designed to handle the largest ships in the world, carrying agricultural products and other exports. But the development of this port has been supported by Brazil, not the United States. And the computers used in the port are from China, not the United States. And ships coming in carrying exports aren’t from the United States either.
Why? Because that port — called Mariel — is in Cuba.
For 50 years, the United States has had a policy of isolation with Cuba. And for 50 years, that policy has failed. That’s why we are leading the bipartisan effort to lift the trade embargo with Cuba.
Trade with Cuba will boost exports and create jobs in Minnesota. Think about it. Minnesota’s businesses could reach more than 11 million new customers. Minnesota’s farmers could double the $20 million in agricultural products they export to Cuba now under humanitarian exemptions to the embargo. Minnesota’s renewable energy companies could benefit from investing in Cuba. Minnesota’s airlines, like Sun Country — which will soon provide flights from Minneapolis to Matanzas and Santa Clara — could take travelers to a popular destination where our hotels provide tourists with the comfort of home.
We could do all that if we lift the trade embargo. This is an issue that transcends partisanship, especially for our state. Our bills in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House have support on both sides of the aisle. These bills eliminate the legal barriers to Americans doing business in Cuba, boosting job creation and exports. They do not repeal important provisions of current law that address human rights violations in Cuba.
Until we pass these bills and lift the embargo, we will have to rely on incremental change. Since 2014, through executive actions, we have increased internet access, expanded opportunities for Cuban entrepreneurs, as well as American businesses, and loosened travel restrictions. While meaningful, these steps do not provide the sweeping change that’s needed for U.S. businesses to get a fair shot in this emerging market.
If we fail to take action, other countries will continue to expand their business operations in Cuba while America is excluded. This is especially unfortunate given the boost in travel we expect to see in the coming years. If we don’t end the embargo, the millions of Americans expected to travel to Cuba will be sleeping in Spanish hotels and eating Chinese food.
The Cuban people are ready for more opportunities to interact with Americans, to do business with us, and to work with us to improve economic opportunities and the quality of life in their country. There are more than 505,000 people in Cuba who are running their own small businesses. This is clearly a market for goods and products from the United States. We need to show the Cuban people — who are ahead of their government on economic policy and human rights — that we mean business and we want to do business with them.
The American people are ready for more opportunities to interact with Cubans, as well. Nationwide polls show that 72 percent of Americans from both parties agree that it’s time for Congress to end the embargo and open the United States to business and travel with our Cuban neighbors. We see this support bolstered through businesses and organizations committed to supporting a strengthened United States-Cuba relationship. Engage Cuba, a bipartisan organization that recently announced a Minnesota State Council to bring together our state’s community and business leaders to advocate for renewed diplomatic engagement with Cuba, is one such organization.
We look forward to the day when we can stand at that port just 90 miles from our shore, watching ships filled with corn and soybeans and wheat from Minnesota’s farms come in to dock. For the sake of the Cuban people who are desperate for more change, and for the Minnesota businesses looking to expand to a new market, we need to work across party lines and end the Cuban embargo once and for all.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and Rep. Tom Emmer, a Republican, are among Minnesota’s representatives in the nation’s capital.