Normalization of Cuban-American Relations A Major Policy Shift
China Could Be Hard Hit By Cheap Cuban Labor
Bill Collier- While there has been bipartisan discussions about a new push to normalize relationships with the Cuban Communist regime in the interest of trade, the sudden and unexpected move has blindsided Congress. Only recently, Congress was assured that no such dramatic change in the US diplomatic stance regarding the Cuban Communist regime was in the offing, but in reality this promise was untrue. Plans to embark on this path of normalization had been conceived and were being worked since early summer of 2014.
Once again, a Presidential policy move is seen as undermining US law, which states that normalization of relationships and a lifting of the embargo against trade with Cuba must be presaged by Cuba adopting democratic reforms. The main purposes of this policy had been to marginalize Cuba in the region and to prevent Cuba from becoming economically powerful enough to finance a serious military threat to the US. After all, Cuba is only some 90 miles off the coast of Florida.
The move, if it goes through by Congressional support or by alleged executive fiat that is unchallenged, would also be a challenge to China. In short, US companies would have access to Cuba’s cheap labor market and one might expect to see “Made In Cuba” competing with “Made In China.”
While the President has not explicitly ended the embargo, it does expand the amount and type of agricultural products that can be exported, it allows for a higher amount of money that individuals can send to Cuban relatives from the US, and it allows for greater tourism travel. The President is expected to request that Congress ends the embargo. It is not known whether he will use the device of prosecutorial discretion to refrain from prosecuting individuals and entities which might violate the embargo.
On the diplomatic side, the State Department is being instructed to move towards establishing diplomatic relations and removing Cuba from a State Department list of nations that support terrorism.
On the Cuban side, the number of concessions appears to be limited to releasing an American prisoner who has been incarcerated in Cuba for 5 years and possibly another American who has been incarcerated for 20 years. There is no promise or agreement to institute any free market or democracy reforms, to do more to guarantee religious freedom and end the persecution of Christians, to allow freedom of the press, or any move away from totalitarianism. The entire purpose of the embargo was to encourage the Cubans to institute such reforms, whereupon the embargo would end.
The argument being made in support of this move is that such normalization will result in Cuban reforms, but this argument was used regarding China. In the case of China, the normalization of diplomacy and trade added legitimacy to the regime, gave the Chinese access to Western technology, and allowed them to grow their economy. The result of this normalization of relations with China has produced no noticeable liberalization of their political environment. Aside from purely cosmetic changes, the Chinese regime remains wholly undemocratic and continues to persecute ethnic minorities, especially Christians.
In short, there is no objective and clear evidence that President Nixon’s change in policy with China has come anywhere close to the goals which were given at the time the U.S declared this policy shift. In fact, it is argued, China has gained much more and the US and the West have lost much more out of the normalization process that occurred.
The Chinese, however, look on this development with some trepidation, though not through official channels. Cuban labor could substantially eat into their economic position. What is more, Cuban control over oil deposits in the Gulf which they are unable to exploit could result in more oil production in the Western Hemisphere to further erode the price of oil and undercut Middle Eastern suppliers and Russia.
What remains to be seen is whether or not the initiative announced by the President will succeed. Will Congress back the policy and even lift the trade embargo, and who will that benefit? Will the President use executive orders and executive memorandum to essentially gut the 1959 law that created the embargo by not enforcing it and, if so, will it be allowed to stand by what observers refer to as a supine Congress?