- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Peter Kasperowicz recently spoke to Daniel W. Fisk, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, about farm trade with Cuba.

Question: Why is it necessary to take a closer look at agricultural sales to Cuba under the Trade Sanctions Reform Act of 2000?

Answer: Since the laws and regulations restrict financing, we are working with Treasury and Commerce to develop an interagency response to Congress to ensure that the financing provisions of the law are being respected.

Q: How real is President Bush's threat to veto legislation that would remove the ability of the government to enforce current restrictions against Cuba?

A: There is no better authority on the seriousness of the veto threat than the president himself. The president said in his May 20 remarks that he would veto any changes in the policy on trade and travel. Secretaries [Colin L.] Powell [at the State Department] and [Paul H.] O'Neill [of the Treasury] vigorously support this policy.

Q: U.S. exporters have secured about $100 million worth of sales contracts to Cuba. At a time of slow economic growth in the United States, why would the administration continue to discourage these transactions?

A: We don't discourage the sale of agricultural goods to Cuba. However, trade with the Castro regime has never brought political reform to the island. Cuba has had extensive trade ties with European and Asian exporters for many years but continues to repress its populace. We believe that trade with Cuba benefits the government elite but does nothing to improve the lot of the average Cuban.

Q: And the same goes for travel?

A: Yes. Despite their best intentions, supporters of these policy changes still don't have a good answer to the fundamental question of how these changes undercut the Castro regime, which has bet the bank on getting financing for purchases of U.S. farm products and opening up its hotel rooms to American tourists. I would much rather have Americans vacationing in Arizona than in Havana.

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