Obama Administration May Open US Markets To All Agricultural/Food Products From Cuba

The Obama Administration may reverse-engineer the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSREEA) of 2000 which re-authorized the direct export of agricultural commodities and food products from the United States to the Republic of Cuba on a payment-of-cash-in-advance-only basis.

Since December 2001, the first exports from the United States to the Republic of Cuba under provisions of the TSREEA, the government of the Republic of Cuba has purchased US$5,151,432,158.00 (as of April 2016) in agricultural commodities and food products.

In April 2016, the Obama Administration authorized the importation to the United States, for commercial purposes, of coffee from the Republic of Cuba, with restrictions as to sourcing and production.

There are no statutory impediments to the Obama Administration adding products to the list of eligible products to include sugar, alcohol (rum), tobacco (cigars), tropical fruits, seafood, honey, charcoal and other products (including non-agricultural).

The Obama Administration would need to determine value in maintaining import restrictions based upon the sourcing of the products ("The goods whose import is authorized by Section 515.582 are goods produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs, as demonstrated by documentary evidence,...") versus accepting that the government of the Republic of Cuba has a dominate role in all export product production, but that, ultimately, there is a benefit to the 11.3 million citizens of the country.  

If the Obama Administration wants to further "normalize" the commercial bilateral relationship before 20 January 2017 so as to solidify a post-Obama Administration landscape of activity which may sustain, withstand and potentially expand the 2014-2016 legacy-building efforts, then it will need to move towards the reality of commercial, economic and political structures that currently exist within the Republic of Cuba. 

The government of the Republic of Cuba does not have an internationally-recognized organic product certification process or a Fair Trade certification process; and will require both for meaningful export opportunities to the United States:



If the government of the Republic of Cuba creates a certified organic export marketplace, there would be niche regional and national distribution channels within the United States available for food service and for retail.

However, there will be issues with states that currently produce the same or similar products including, but not limited to, honey (North Dakota/South Dakota/Montana/Florida/California); Charcoal (Missouri);  Sugar (Florida/Louisiana/Michigan/Texas/Hawaii); Alcohol (Puerto Rico/Texas/Massachusetts/Colorado/Florida); Tobacco (Connecticut); Seafood (Maine, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Virginia, Washington, Alaska, etc.) and Tropical Fruits (California/Florida).

Members of Congress who are supportive of changing the United States-Republic of Cuba commercial, economic and political landscape may find those efforts strained when confronted by potential import competition for their state-based and district-based companies.  

An additional challenge for Members of Congress from states that export agricultural equipment and products is recognizing that the goal of the government of the Republic of Cuba is to develop and sustain an import substitution program so as to grow and process and assemble and manufacture as much food and other related and non-related products as possible.  

Thus, a result may be opportunities to export agricultural equipment and products to the Republic of Cuba which will be used to lessen the importation of agricultural commodities and food products from the United States and other countries. 

The aspirational view from the United States business community is with increasing visitors to the Republic of Cuba from throughout the world, there will be increase in demand to provide for those visitors.  And, the increase in revenues to the Republic of Cuba will result in an increase in the desired and required standard of living for citizens of the Republic of Cuba, which will result in additional imports, even as domestic production of products increase.