Introducing the 'Obama Change Clock'

November 20, 2008 06:00 PM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

How long will it take Obama administration to change U.S. trade policy toward Cuba?

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

Change we can believe in? Florida voted for Barack Obama for president. Now, finally, will we get substantial and long-lasting change in U.S. trade policy toward Cuba?

Rice growers during a meeting Thursday in Jonesboro, Arkansas, sponsored by Riceland Foods, told me one of the biggest issues they are monitoring is whether the incoming Obama administration will finally make it easier to trade rice and other U.S. ag products to Cuba, only 90 miles from the shores of America.

Cuba would easily be the biggest potential rice customer for U.S. producers.

President-elect Obama during the presidential campaign said he hoped to break with existing policy by easing some sanctions. His aides said Obama believes that "more of the same" policy just doesn't make sense.

Obama aides said he would allow "unlimited" remittances and family travel for Cuban nationals living in the U.S.

Several farm-state lawmakers the past few years offered trade opening language regarding Cuba, only to see it deep-sixed by the Republican-led White House. Well, as the rice producers told me this week, Obama said he wants change, and that's what is needed in U.S.-Cuba trade policy. At a minimum, rice growers told me, the U.S. should unshackle export financing to Cuba that the ideologues in the Bush White House implemented as a gimme to President Bush's brother Jeb when he was governor of Florida.

So... on January 20, when Obama is inaugurated, I will start the Change Clock -- not change as in "cents" but in SENSE...a trade policy with Cuba that finally makes sense, to give a lot more cents and dollars to U.S. rice growers and other U.S. farmers with good quality products waiting for a market just 90 miles away.

The key to an Obama change regarding Cuba, I am told, is for Cuba to also signal a change is underway. The key, then, is to find out what Cuba has to do to warrant an Obama change for the better.

The Change Clock starts ticking Jan. 20

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


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