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WOODSTOCK, Ill. (CBS) — Illinois State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) believes easing of trade restrictions with Cuba could pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s economy.
As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, Franks was joined by Rep. Daniel J. Burke (D-Chicago) and 10 other state lawmakers for a trip to Cuba.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports
On the trip, Franks heard Cuban officials break the news that they have switched grain providers from Illinois to Vietnam and Brazil.
Under former Gov. George Ryan, Illinois received an embargo exemption and started doing $650 million annual agricultural business with Cuba. But that figure has dropped off to $70 million.
Franks says because of the federal embargo, Illinois companies are not allowed to extend credit to Cuba, and Cuban ships may not dock in the U.S. within six months of offloading in Havana. He would like to see these restrictions lifted.
“I think that we’d be over $1 billion in sales within two years if we were able to change just a few minor things,” he said.
Franks says overall, the embargo on trade to Cuba is a Cold War relic, and its removal is long overdue.
He says food would be a good place to start in lifting the embargo.
“What I’d like to be able to do is change the law to be able to allow Cuba to buy directly from either the state our country, number one,” Franks said. “Number two, be able to provide the credit instead of requiring cash upfront.”