Benefits of lifting the Cuban embargo

Economics editor Chris Farrell

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: President Obama heads to Trinidad and Tobago tomorrow for this year's
Summit of the Americas. And one conversation that will keep coming up down there is Cuba. Our economics correspondent, Chris Farrell, joins us now to talk about the president's cracking open of the Cuban door. Chris, is this more of a beginning or an end?

Chris Farrell: Well, depends on which country that you're in, but I think that is the beginning of fundamental change in U.S. policy toward Cuba -- at least when it comes toward trade and investment. And for Cuba, I think it's the end of the embargo. Now, that's a dramatic statement, the embargo has been on there for over four decades. But I do think we are starting to see the beginning of increased trade between Cuba and the U.S.

Chiotakis: I guess you could look at the impact on Cuba and say it's positive. But what about for the economy in South Florida, where a lot of Cubans and Cuban-Americans live?

Farrell: Well South Florida, as you know, is in a depression. If you're in the camp that believes, in general, that freer trade is good for an economy, I think this can only benefit the South Florida economy, to have more commerce between the two nations. Now, Cuba is very poor, so it's not that this is going to turn around the South Florida economy, but increased trade flows between the countries, the opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop businesses, net-net, it's a good thing for South Florida and it's a good thing for Cuba. You know most of the time, trade is a win-win situation.

Chiotakis: What kind of lessons have we learned from this trade embargo over the past, gosh, four decades or more?

Farrell: I think the real lesson that you take from this is that trade is revolutionary, commerce is revolutionary. And trade is not just money and entrepreneurial opportunities. It also means exposing an economy to different ideas, and ideas that are an anathema to a bureaucracy that is in power. And we have a very good counter-example. Remember in the 1990's, the Clinton administration came under a lot of pressure to set up trade embargoes with China because a lot of the human rights violations. And I'm not minimizing, by the way -- I am not minimizing human rights violations in China, I am not minimizing human rights violations in Cuba. But the administration continued the trade with China, and it was the right move -- China is now more integrated into the global economy, there's a lot more information in that economy, it's moving in the right direction. And so that's what I want to see trade with Cuba. I think that's the real lesson to take here.

Chiotakis: Our economics correspondent, Chris Farrell, joining us this morning. Chris, thank you.

Farrell: Thanks a lot.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

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