The Trump Administration announced last week a major shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba by allowing the activation of Titles III and IV of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996, better known as the Helms-Burton Act. The act’s intention was to strengthen the U.S. embargo on Cuba, but these specific provisions have been suspended by every administration since the bill’s enactment during the presidency of Bill Clinton.
Set to go into effect on May 2, the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act will allow lawsuits in U.S. courts against both persons and domestic and foreign companies trafficking over property seized during the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Additionally, Title IV of the same act will deny travel visas on non-family travel and remittances from the U.S. into Cuba.
“The implementation of Title III, is a major setback on the progress that has been made towards developing agricultural trade relationships with our neighbor just 90 miles to the south,” said Mark Isbell, an Arkansas rice farmer. “At one time, Cuba was the largest export market for U.S.-grown rice, and this move only continues to work against access to what could be a steady market again.”
In addition to the implications in Cuba, both Canada and the European Union are threatening retaliation in the World Trade Organization.
There are separate efforts underway in Congress led by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) to remove specific restrictions on financing and marketing of agricultural goods to Cuba. Currently, Cuba must pay cash for most U.S. agricultural commodities, rendering purchases practically unattainable.
Isbell concluded, “This predicament further complicates an already unstable world market for rice and other agricultural exports from the U.S. with the ongoing trade disputes, and we strongly urge the Trump Administration to reverse this drastic action and take a reasoned approach towards normalized trade with Cuba.”