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Whose Embargo Is It, Anyway?

Dwayne Andreas
From the Print Edition:
The Cuba Issue, May/Jun 99

(continued from page 1)

The U.S. policy of encouraging donations while restricting the sale of health-care products and prohibiting the sale of food products, for example, is self-defeating. How does giving something for free to a government encourage that government to make commercial and economic changes? Donations can promote the maintenance of existing commercial, economic and political structures in Cuba because the government is not required to make any uncomfortable financial allocation decisions. Without U.S. restrictions on sales to Cuba, the Cuban government would be required to provide greater value to its citizens--or create new, and transparent, excuses for its hardships.

More than 150 U.S. health-care companies continue to await permission from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to participate in the U.S. Medical/Health-care Exposition to be held in Havana. (The event is being organized by PWN Exhibicon International LLC of Westport, Connecticut.) If the U.S. government wants to undermine the Cuban government's position that sales of health-care products are being restricted, what more visible opportunity than a trade show in Cuba?

This January, President Clinton initiated the first potentially substantive, and positive, changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba since the initiatives of President Jimmy Carter 20 years ago. The United States now has an opportunity for constructive reengagement with the people of Cuba--if the new policy is interpreted expansively regarding "people-to-people" contact and commerce.

Unfortunately, preventing any substantive and positive change in U.S. policy towards Cuba has become a thriving business. Some individuals want to maintain the status quo so as to maintain their relevance. Thankfully, when the United States and Cuba have normalized relations, no longer will these individuals and their organizations have disproportionate influence over the public sector, no longer will their views be supported by U.S. taxpayer-financed grants, and no longer will their public-sector contributions prevent U.S. companies from accessing 11 million customers and a potential of $3 billion to $6 billion in annual bilateral commercial activity.

Democrats, Republicans, conserva-tives and liberals often espouse the use of "weapons" such as free markets and capital to promote the ideals of democracy. Surely, the most visible and cost-effective vehicle from which to launch such an "attack" is the U.S. business community.

If the United States wants to demonstrate the value of our Stars and Stripes to the people of Cuba, we must permit them to see the flag, to touch the flag and, most important, to speak with those who are represented by the flag. The flag is our people, our spirit, our values, our culture and, yes, our products and services.

If a U.S. company had maintained the same policy for almost 40 years, and president after president had not achieved the goals of that policy, either the policy would be changed or new management would be hired. President Clinton has confirmed that the policy toward Cuba has not achieved its stated commercial, economic or political goals. He has less than two years remaining on his term in office. Logic requires a substantive, and positive, change in that policy.

Dwayne O. Andreas is chairman emeritus of Archer Daniels Midland Co., one of the world's largest processors of oilseeds, corn and wheat. Annual revenues exceed $16 billion.

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