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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 23, 2004

Symposium To Examine Cuba Trade Relations With Midwest States

Although Cuba may seem like it's a million miles away from Iowa and the American Midwest, it's not far away at all in terms of trade.

"Few people realize that in 2002-03, Cuba was Iowa's 16th largest trading partner," said Enrique Carrasco, a University of Iowa law professor and director of the UI Center for International Finance and Development. "For instance, since October 2002, Iowa farmers have sold Cuba 2.2 million bushels of corn worth $5.1 million."

Only the continuing U.S. economic embargo keeps those figures from going higher. The embargo and its impact on Cuban relations with the Midwest will be the topic of a two-day symposium at the University of Iowa College of Law. "Whither Goes Cuba: Prospects for Economic and Social Development" will be held Feb. 6 and 7 in the Boyd Law Building and bring together some of the nation's leading experts on U.S.-Cuba relations.

"For years, Cuba has always been a lightning rod for heated debate about Fidel Castro, socialism, human rights and the efficacy of the embargo," said Carrasco. "We hope this symposium will provide the opportunity to look at the sanctions once again and determine if they've been effective or if they should be replaced by a policy of engagement."

Admission to the symposium panels is free, but a fee will be required for those who wish to attend the talks at the luncheons or at the Friday night banquet. Registration by Jan. 29 is therefore required for those who wish to attend the luncheons or the banquet. There will be registration at the door, but pre-registration is highly recommended for those who wish to attend panel discussions. A complete schedule of programs, biographies of the presenters, descriptions of the papers, and a registration form can be downloaded from the UICIFD's Web site at

Among those speaking will be Wayne Smith, head of the Center for International Policy's Cuba Project and former Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana from 1979 to 1982, who will provide an overview of the current trade and investment relationship between Cuba and the Midwest; Adolfo Franco, assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United States Agency for International Development, who will discuss U.S. government support for a future transitional government; Pedro Freyre, a partner in the Miami law firm of Akerman Senterfitt, who will discuss national reconciliation in Cuba; and John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, Inc, a private, non-profit organization based in New York City.

Other topics of discussion include "Cuba & Democratization: Should Sanctions Be Lifted?" "Cuba's Future in a Globalized World" and "Cuba's Future and Its Impact on U.S. Trade and Investment."

Carrasco said that an increasing number of U.S. government and economic leaders are beginning to question the embargo and believe it should be loosened or eliminated altogether. They are beginning to have some impact: Congress passed a law in 2000 that allows the sale of food and medical supplies to Cuba for cash. Iowa's increasing sales of corn and agricultural products to Cuba came as a result of that law, and Carrasco said other states are selling their crops and other food products to build trade relationships with Cuba.

However, the embargo has remained fixed over the years, partly because some leaders question the principle of doing business with a socialist country with a poor human rights record, and partly for political reasons, Carrasco said.

Additional funding for the symposium has been provided by UI International Programs and the Miami law firm of Akerman Senterfitt.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,