Secretary of Commerce on Cuba

Carlos Gutierrez, the Secretary of Commerce (and former chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Kellogg Company) took questions from the general internet- public a while back. In the introduction to the discussion, he writes this.
I appreciate this opportunity to discuss with my fellow Americans our relationship with Cuba, which I believe is an important foreign policy issue today.

While a majority of our regional neighbors are moving forward on the paths of progress, there are those in Latin America who do not share our vision of equal opportunity for everyone. In Cuba, people remain repressed as the economy remains closed. Restrictions on the Cuban people have nothing to do with the U.S. embargo. They have everything to do with the oppressive Castro regime.

We recognize the future of Cuba is in the hands of the citizens of Cuban. We hope that some day we can welcome Cuba into the community of democracies and into a hemisphere of freedom, hope and opportunity for all. I hope I can shed some light on the issue of our relations with Cuba by answering a few of your questions.
So, from the outset we are told Cuba is an important foreign policy matter, signifying the interest the US takes in Cuba on several levels. He then describes a "path of progress" in the context of Latin American countries, and how the lack of will to follow it will maintain the need for sanctions and embargoes. Which would not be there if it was not for Castro's oppressive regime. Further, he suggests the US will be happy to welcome Cuba into freedom, but that this is Cuba's choice, and not the US's.

Is it possible to square those two statements? Is it necessary to change the meaning of "embargo" to do so? If not, how would we rationalise the statement?

What if we change the meaning of "embargo" from one sentence to the next? How do we rationalise the statement then?

Other questions:
Cuba is an important foreign policy issue. Is it significant that the secretary of commerce says so?

What does equal opportunity for everyone mean?

What is the community of democracies?


For a Free Scotland
They say that an opening of the massive US market will only occur with political liberalization. However the opposite is far more likely, namely that opening the US market will lead to political liberalization. If there is a greater amount of wealth spread over a larger population, the Castro dicatatorship will not be able to keep a totalitarian grip on Cuba. The same goes for North Korea: the only reason they stay in power is that a lack of free-market trade means nobody has the resources to fight their power.
Mm. That's one theory (..I happen to agree with when it comes to Cuba). Is it possible he's falling down on the position he is from a realpolitical view of some sort? Or is it purely "ideological", such as: "oppressive regimes must not be encouraged"? Does it make economical sense to not trade with Cuba?

But it's a good observation you had - what sort of thinking is behind the idea of sanctions probably is an important part of all this.


For a Free Scotland
Cuban trade wouldn't hinder our markets at all, they would probably want a lot of our products so we can deal with our trade defecit problem. Plus it would benefit nearby states with cheap cigars and such, and bolster tourism for them as well.

I don't think totalitarianism is any reason to impoverish a nation of people. Cubans are well-educated and could be helping the Latin world more than they already do (disaster relief and medical missions), we should give them a chance to reach the developed state they are capable of.
Mm. But do you think his position really comes from a choice between supporting, or not supporting totalitarian regimes? That he believes moderately opening up trade is going to be instantly helpful for the existing regime..?

(..It doesn't seem like he argues his position as a commerce secretary should, imo. It's not really based on economics, or some form of explanation of how he sees the mechanisms involved should work..).


For a Free Scotland
No, it comes from Cuba being a former Soviet ally, and the regime being generally anti-American. Trade and tourism with Cuba would be symbiotic, however we don't have the predicament we have with Iran or Venezuela in terms of resources or in Iran, the bomb.
Doesn't India, Pakistan and Israel have nukes? ...Anyway. But even if that was true, about the threat and the complications - is that really what the secretary is saying?

I mean, I could read what's said here that the purpose of the trade, is to spread american interest and hegemony, against horror and totalitarianism and so on. And that the secretary really believes that the influence of the US is strong enough to have this sort of impact - but at once he seems to say it's so weak it might be exploited by the totalitarian regimes.

So first thing is that there's a decided lack of an actual economical argument - no explanation of the trade- mechanisms, and no suggestions on how the trade- mechanisms should work (whether the oppressive regimes are in power or not). And therefore it's close to suspect that the actual argument is one for completely liberalised trade for international trade- agreements, organised at the pleasure of the executive branch on specific geo- political justifications (for instance like in Bolivia, India, etc.).

The second thing is that the threats against responsible free markets does not come from Soviet, it comes from capitalistic competitors to the US, such as India, China, Japan and Korea. So it's also possible to suspect that there is no economical argument to be made. And that the problems with the nukes is only a political inconvenience in the way of the mentioned trade- agreements. After all - Cuba is a small country. While China is a different story right away. Even though they have nukes, and abysmal track record on human rights, as well as nuclear and other trade with totalitarian regimes.

So if the commerce secretary is making the argument you're suggesting - then his argument is very likely (if we assume he's not a bloodsucking vampire) from the position that he needs any possible excuse to stop the market forces from being allowed to enter into and bolster the economies of the non- favoured countries.

At least, that way the argument he's making would make sense, no? I mean, he is, as I said, demonstrably not making an economical argument for his position. And I would suspect that if he was, it would be a very, very, unpopular argument. At least with the beltway and the pro- market liberalists?


Registered Member
I really don't see why it should matter if a country is a communist state, a democracy, or whatever. If trade with a country can be beneficial, then we should consider it (unless the country is hostile, of course).

In all of my government classes, I've been taught that communism is actually the best form of government however, many times in the past it has been executed improperly. Because of this, communism has become synonomous with "evil" and "adversary" and "enemy of democracy".

It shouldn't matter what kind of government a country has as long as they are neutral or do not pose a threat, etc. All options should be considered in establishing trade and other beneficial programs.

As for Cuba, if we can make allies with Russia after the Cold War I think it's time to open up talks with Cuba.