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Shumlin Urges Congress To End Trade Embargo With Cuba

Andy Duback
Gov. Peter Shumlin, shown here in Jan. 2015, is urging Congress to end the trade embargo with Cuba, which he says would open up opportunity for Vermont's dairy industry.

It is unusual for the governor of Vermont to get involved in foreign policy issues but Gov. Peter Shumlin says he's convinced that an open trade policy between the United States and Cuba will create valuable new markets for Vermont goods and services.

Audio from this story will be posted at approximately 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 16.

That’s why Shumlin has joined with eight other governors to urge Congressional leaders to end the decades old U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.

Shumlin says Vermont's dairy industry could be a big winner if Congress lifts trade sanctions with Cuba. 

Because of current trade restrictions with the U.S., Shumlin says Cuba imports dairy products from around the world. The governor argues that Vermont's dairy industry could help meet this demand if the trade embargo is lifted.

"This would have a huge impact on Vermont's businesses,” he said. “You know look at the milk dairy industry just as one sector of the Cuban economy. They spent $160 million last year buying milk and dairy products from the E.U. and from New Zealand. That should be some of Vermont's business." 

Shumlin says it's very difficult right now for Vermont dairy farmers to sell their products in Cuba because the embargo requires that all transactions be done in cash.

"It makes it almost impossible for Vermont dairy farmers to sell their products in Cuba,” Shumlin explained. “Which is why they're going to the E.U. and why they're going to New Zealand for their dairy products. I mean no one is going to deal in up front cash in the dairy business so it really hurts us."  

Shumlin thinks there are also opportunities for other Vermont businesses, including renewable energy and tech companies, to benefit from being able to tap into Cuba's consumer market of 11 million people.

“The Cuban economy is a fairly large economy. It's kind of silly that we're sitting here decades after the Cuban missile crisis and still acting as if Cuba is the enemy,” said Shumlin. 

Critics of the plan to end the embargo argue that it's mistake to reward the Communist government of Cuba with beneficial trade policies. Shumlin says these criticisms make no sense.
"Why do we have a double standard with Cuba?” he said. “When we do business with countries around the world who hold down democratic rights to do all kinds of things that we don't agree with as a country, but we still do business with them." 

Shumlin says lifting the trade embargo could also help expand the travel and tourism industries of both Cuba and Vermont.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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