Reports: Trump to reverse Cuba policies; Crawford makes proposal
May 31, 2017
President Donald Trump will roll back President Barack Obama's policies liberalizing the U.S. relationship with Cuba, The Daily Caller reported this week, as Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark. promoted a proposal to impose a 2 percent tax on U.S agricultural exports to Cuba to be used to pay off companies with claims against Cuba for expropriation of their assets.
The Daily Caller, a conservative publication, said the pull-back is due to behind-the-scenes efforts of Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., but it did not provide details of what pulling back on the Obama policies might entail.
John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said he also believes Trump intends to announce a roll back, but noted that the announcement has been rumored before and that whatever changes the administration makes could be changed at the last minute by the president.
Kavulich said he does not believe there would be any changes that would directly affect agricultural sales because the rules for those transactions come under the the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000.
Kavulich said he believes there have been discussions of reversing the Obama rule that individuals can travel to Cuba for educational and humanitarian reasons rather than going in groups. If that happens, Kavulich said, it would have more of a negative effect on the airlines that have service to Cuba than on the cruise ships that specialize in group travel.
Kavulich said Rubio's "visceral" reaction is to encourage Trump to make a "muscular" pullback from the Obama policies, but that his presidential ambitions mean that Rubio has to be cautious in what he proposes because too much of a pullback would not be popular among Republican voters.
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Kavulich is vigorously opposing Crawford's proposal to require by statute a 2 percent transaction fee for agricultural commodity and food product exports from the U.S. to Cuba in exchange for statutorily authorizing private-sector payment terms for those exports. The money would be used to compensate those who have certified claims of properties confiscated by the Cuban government.
Kavulich said Crawford's proposal is "not a solution to a problem — it is an affront to the 5,913 companies and individuals who have waited nearing 57 years for an equitable resolution to the expropriation of assets."
Kavulich said that forcing U.S. agricultural exporters to pay a fee that would be used to compensate other companies amounts to "stealing" and that it would mean Cuba does not have to pay the compensation.
In a lengthy statement Kavulich said "Rep. Crawford is not solving a problem; he is making the existing problem worse and creating additional problems. He may believe that his efforts of bipartisan engagement are creating a space for bipartisan dialogue with a goal of closure. He is not. He is solidifying delay and distraction. Rice from Arkansas will not be flooding the Republic of Cuba marketplace because of his efforts."
Politico reported that the only U.S. farm groups expressing interest in the proposal are the USA Rice Federation and the U.S. Rice Producers Association.
Crawford has said he hopes that the proposal will convince Cuban-American House members not to oppose selling agricultural products to Cuba on credit but Politico reported that Cuban-American House members have not signed on to Crawford's proposal.