Rogue State: Maine's Foray into US Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

US foreign policy has traditionally been the purview of the federal government, but recent actions by states have stealthily challenged this assumption. Over the last decade, US governors have increasingly conducted their own foreign trade policy. Maine sent trade missions to Ireland and the United Kingdom in 2003, to Germany and Italy in 2004, and to France in 2005, generating more than US$30 million for the Maine economy. Other states have followed suit: in October 2005, the governor of New Hampshire brokered trade policy with Germany, the Czech Republic, and the Ukraine, and in February 2007, Ohio and other states sent a joint mission to South Africa.

Such state-led foreign policy remained a tolerable and even welcome novelty until it hit the nerve end of Cuba, which has been under US embargo since the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961. In 2000, however, Congress passed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which exempted certain agricultural and medical goods from sanctions. The intent was benevolent, namely to provide humanitarian aid to those under authoritarian rule, but it made a charade of the US embargo on Cuba. In 2004, a whopping 44 percent of total Cuban imports came from none other than the United States. According to the agricultural publication Capital Press, in the seven years since the Sanctions Reform Act, US agricultural producers have sold approximately US$1.5 billion to Cuba.

Individual states have been crucial in providing this market. Maine, Nebraska, Louisiana, Idaho, Montana, California, South Carolina, and Kansas have all signed trade agreements with Cuba. Maine has been at the forefront; Governor John Baldacci signed a US$10 million farm goods trade deal with Cuba in 2004 and doubled the deal to US$20 million in 2005. The problem is that while gubernatorial agreements with France or Italy might be economically profitable and do not contravene US foreign policy, Cuba is an entirely different situation. …

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