Published On: Thu, Jun 8th, 2017

Bipartisan coalition in US Senate introduces major legislation to lift Cuba trade embargo

Usa And CubaWASHINGTON - Following the recent reintroduction of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act by a bipartisan group of US senators, a similar bipartisan coalition of senators has introduced legislation – The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2017 – to eliminate legal barriers for Americans doing business in Cuba.

Republican senators Mike Enzi and Jeff Flake, along with their Democratic colleagues Amy Klobuchar and Patrick Leahy, led the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who introduced the legislation to lift the Cuban trade embargo.

The proposed legislation repeals key provisions of previous laws that block Americans from doing business in Cuba, but does not repeal portions of law that address human rights or property claims against the Cuban government.

“For far too long, US-Cuba policy has been defined by the conflicts of the past instead of the realities of today and the possibilities for the future," Klobuchar said. “More than 50 years of isolating an island just 90 miles from our border has not secured our interests and has disadvantaged American business owners and farmers. This bipartisan legislation would benefit the people of both our countries by boosting American exports and creating opportunity for the Cuban people. We need to turn the page on the failed policy of isolation and build on the progress we have made to open up engagement with Cuba by ending the embargo once and for all.”

“Over the last 50 years, our strategy of isolating Cuba hasn’t been very successful,” Enzi said. “This bipartisan legislation would lift the travel restriction to Cuba, providing new opportunities for American businesses, farmers and ranchers. But trade is very powerful. It can be more than just the flow of goods, but also the flow of ideas – ideas of freedom and democracy are the keys to positive change in any nation. It is time we moved on from the failed ideas of the past and tried a new approach to Cuba.”

“Decades after the end of the Cold War we continue to impose punitive sanctions against Cuba, a tiny island neighbor that poses no threat to us,” said Leahy. “After more than half a century, the embargo has achieved none of its objectives. President Obama took a courageous and pragmatic step in opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. It is now up to Congress to end the embargo, which is used by the Cuban government to justify its repressive policies, and by foreign companies to avoid competing with US businesses that are shut out of the market. Lifting the embargo will put more food on the plates of the Cuban people, allow them to access quality US products, and spur reforms in Cuba’s economy, all while benefiting American companies.”

“While there are no guarantees, engaging with Cuba economically is more likely to nudge Cuba toward democracy than a half century of trying to isolate the island,” Flake said. “It's long past time we move ahead.”

Cuba relies on agriculture imports to feed the 11 million people who live there and the 3.5 million tourists who visit each year. This represents a $2 billion opportunity for American farmers annually. The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2017 repeals the original 1961 authorization for establishing the trade embargo; subsequent laws that required enforcement of the embargo; and other restrictive statutes that prohibit transactions between US-owned or controlled firms and Cuba, and limitations on direct shipping between US and Cuban ports.

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