Republican Senators Push Bush Administration to Expand Cuba Agricultural Trade and Travel

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 /PRNewswire/ — Americans For Humanitarian Trade With Cuba (AHTC), a national organization that includes blue-ribbon leaders such as David Rockefeller, Frank Carlucci, Carla Hills and Paul Volcker, endorsed legislation introduced today by a powerful and unprecedented group of Republican Senators meant to head-off recent Bush Administration moves to cut back agricultural trade and travel to Cuba.

The Agricultural Export Facilitation Act was introduced today by U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) with other leaders including Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and U.S. Senator Max Baucus, Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, for a total of 20 cosponsors, half Republican, half Democratic.

The legislation would: grant a ‘general license’ (similar to what journalists have now, which basically assures the freedom to travel without specific U.S. government authorization) for Americans traveling to Cuba to sell, market, or service agricultural products: facilitate visits from Cuban agricultural trade officials and inspectors; allow direct banking relations for agriculture trade-related transactions; and repeal Section 211, widely viewed as a law that protects certain Cuban exile interests while jeopardizing a far larger pool of American trademarks registered in Cuba.

A companion bill is expected to be introduced by Republican House leaders in the weeks ahead. Other bills in the House (and Senate) to lift all restrictions on Americans’ ability to travel to Cuba have enjoyed majority support.

Congress passed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA) of 2000 under the leadership of then U.S. Senator John Ashcroft (R-MO) to open Cuba’s market to American agricultural products. Since that time, U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba have reached almost $1 billion making Cuba the 22nd largest market for U.S. agricultural exports.

“This bill reflects the clear position of the Republican leadership in the Senate and the business community as a whole that current Cuba trade is important, should be protected and made as easy as possible,” said Kirby Jones, an AHTC Board Member and President of Alamar Associates, a leading Cuba business consulting firm.

AHTC is a national association of American leaders committed to securing normal humanitarian trade and travel to Cuba for the benefit of the Cuban people and American interest at large. A complete list of AHTC Advisory Council members can be found at our website, but includes: Dwayne Andreas, Chairman Emeritus, Archer Daniels Midland; Phil Baum, American Jewish Congress; Peter Coors, Chairman, Coors Brewing Company; Richard Feinberg, Former NSC Chief for Latin America; James Schlesinger, Former Secretary of Defense, William D. Rogers, Former Assistant Secretary of State; General John Sheehan, former Supreme Alllied Commander, Atlantic (NATO); John Whitehead, Former Assistant Secretary of State, and a broad consortium of U.S. ports, business and religious leaders and Cuban exiles.

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