WILMETTE, Ill. — The Illinois Cuba Working Group (ICWG) said it is pleased with President Barack Obama’s actions to improve trade and business relations with Cuba.

“This is a victory for U.S. businesses and also for the 11 million Cubans who can have a better quality of life because of potential increased trade between our two countries.” Paul Johnson, ICWG executive director, said in a news release

Duane Dahlman, Illinois Soybean Growers marketing committee chairman and a Marengo farmer, said, “We also feel this is the beginning of opening up relations and improving financing that will allow Illinois businesses and agricultural products to reach Cuba.”

The ICWG says the improvement of economic trade relations between the United States and Cuba is the foundation for success between the two nations.

It encourages Congress to remove the embargo in 2015.

Obama also is allowing expanded commercial sales and exports of goods and services to Cuba, including agricultural equipment for small farmers.

The Illinois Cuba Working Group., formed at the request of the Illinois General Assembly, grew from an initiative that began in 1999 when Illinois was the first state to travel to Cuba during the embargo. Through the collaboration of Illinois political, business and community support, Congress passed the Trade Sanctions and Reform Act (TSRA) in 2001. The act permitted the sale of agricultural products and represented the first major effort to remove the embargo and barriers to normalized trade relations with Cuba.

In a June 2013 white paper, the working group advocated amending the TRSA to allow approved U.S. products to bepurchased by Cuba on credit.

  • The paper proposed:
  • Expanding the list of exports licensed for sale to Cuba, including the sale of farmequipment
  • Permitting farm groups to exchange knowledge, capital and business-management practices with Cuban counterparts
  • Establishing an ag-trade office in Cuba to facilitate exchanges and market entry
  • Permitting U.S. exporting food companies the ability to negotiate trade terms with Cuba
  • Permitting market access to USDA’s Market Access Programs and Foreign Market Development
  • Removing third-country banking requirements for Cuban transactions
  • Permitting EX/IM working capital guarantees and U.S. Export Credit Guarantee