Path Home Shows 2015 Show Archive February 2015 Show 1507 Thawing the Trade Embargo to Cuba

Thawing the Trade Embargo to Cuba

What started out as a proposed prisoner swap turned into a historic shift in relations with Cuba.
Thawing the Trade Embargo to Cuba

Thawing the Trade Embargo to Cuba

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Show 1507: Thawing the Trade Embargo to Cuba
Air Date: February 15, 2015



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” Well, late last year, President Obama announced that the United States is changing its policy towards Cuba. What started out as a proposed prisoner swap turned into a historic shift in relations – ending what had been a nearly five-decade-old embargo on travel and trade. Yet much of the work to open the Cuban market was already underway in states like Oklahoma. Today, we examine what the opening of the Cuban market could mean for the state, but we begin with a little history.

Rob McClendon: The streets of Havana are filled these days with tourists from all around the world. But among the revelers, a trade delegation from Oklahoma wanting to export food to this island nation just off the Florida coast.

Don Armes: These people have to eat, and we have good products. And the thing that really that I like about the location is where we are, especially in Oklahoma, that we can get our product to a port very easily. We take it the port anyway, and get it here very quickly. Less freight. I mean, freight’s a big cost for a lot of ag producers right now.

Rob: And that they have done.

[Ship horn].

Rob: In the fall of 2004, the first ship in over 40 years arrived in Cuba filled full of Oklahoma wheat. A shipment Oklahoma farmers had hoped would be the first of many more to come. But that hasn’t happened.

Keith Kisling: Our government changed the rules a little bit and made them pre-pay for the wheat that we bought. When that happened, it really made it a lot more difficult.

Rob: Federal obstacles that dried up future sales. Unlike other countries we export to, Cuba must pay in cash before delivery on ships that can’t return to the U.S. for a full year, a hurdle that angers Cuban officials and frustrates state leaders.

Mark Hodges: Well, there is a little bit of frustration that we’re not as far as what we would have liked to have been from where we were six or seven years ago. From a geographical location, from a logistical standpoint, this ought to be our market, and we hopefully someday will get to that point. And yes, it has been frustrating, but we are making progress.

Rob: Progress Oklahoma’s former ag secretary believes gives the state an advantage.

Terry Peach: We feel like we’re building relationships with the leadership in Cuba and that we’re developing that trust. And I think when, uh, when the market share opens and we normalize trade with Cuba that we will be a step ahead of everyone because they’re gonna say, “Let’s, let’s call those Oklahoma people. They took a chance on us early, and now we know they’re our friends.”

Rob: Work that state lawmakers believe will not be wasted if and when the largest export market in the Caribbean opens to U.S. trade.

Charles Wyrick: The scenario I use regardless of where you’re at a lot is about relationships. When you develop good relationships with individuals and communication exists, you can tackle any problems that, that confront you in a much better fashion than you can if you have to sit down and later start to get to know these people and open up those relationships.