Senators confident on votes to lift Cuba travel ban

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There are enough votes in the U.S. Senate to lift the travel ban that now bars U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba, according to a joint statement this month from Republican Mike Enzi, Wyo., and Democrat Byron Dorgan, N.D., who are co-sponsors of the Senate version of the legislation.

"It makes no sense to punish the American people by restricting their right to travel simply because our country is trying to punish the Cuban government, said Dorgan. "Just as has been our policy with China, Vietnam and other communist countries, we should allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba."

The expression of optimism from the two senators followed the passage in the House Agriculture Committee of HR 4645. The bill deals not only with travel restrictions, but barriers to trade as well. It appears that it is the impact on trade that is creating the strongest pressure on representatives from agricultural states to remove barriers to trade with Cuba. Before the 50-year-old embargo, that country was the seventh biggest customer for U.S. exports.

For example, Wyoming's entire congressional delegation has signed on in support of the proposed legislation. With a population of only about half a million, Wyoming is a small state, but with two senators and a member of Congress, it wields disproportionate voting power.

"This bill is a common-sense step that rights agriculture policies which in the past have made it difficult for farmers and producers to sell their products in Cuba," said Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis, a Republican. "Wyoming's farmers and ranchers cannot afford to lose any opportunities during these challenging economic times," she added.

In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has made this legislation a high priority, warning congressional reps that it will monitor their votes for its "scoring" of their support for business.

Currently food exports to Cuba are not banned, but restrictions under the 2000 Trade Sanctions Reform Act (TSRA) make trade convoluted and costly.

The normal procedure for international trade is for payments to be made directly from the bank of the purchaser to that of the seller. The payment is typically made just before unloading the goods at the purchaser's port. However, TSRA does not allow Cuba-bound food and medical supplies even to leave U.S. ports until payment is received.

And receiving that payment is not easy. TSRA requires that the payment from the Cuban bank go to a bank in a third country (which, being a bank, charges a fee of course) before going to the U.S. bank of the supplier. With that extra cost, time and red tape, U.S. goods are less appealing to their potential Cuban customer than those of their competitors in the world market, U.S. business people complain.

John J. Wilson, representing Dairy Farmers of America, testified before the House Agricultural Committee in favor of expanding agricultural trade to Cuba. "Cuba is a market where we should be a natural preferred seller due to our strong proximity advantanges," he stated," but regulatory hurdles imposed by our own government have thwarted our ability to best supply this market."

Wilson cited a 2009 study that found that doing away with all financing and travel restrictions on U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba would have boosted 2008 dairy sales to that country from $13 million to between $39 and $87 million, increasing U.S. market share from 6 percent to between 18 and 42 percent.

Photo: Cuban markets offer locally grown, organic produce, but the island depends on imports for most of its grains and dairy products. (PW/Roberta Wood)

 

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  • Sorry Mars Simms, it's YOU who have your "facts" all wrong. Cuba has NOT frozen bank accounts of foreign suppliers. Think about it - how could they? The accounts are not in Cuba! Cuba is known as an excellent customer that pays its bills - beyond your assertion, what is YOUR information source? And Cuba is in no way a "bankrupt country." Again, your source? Sorry you're so worked up about this. Don't you think it's time we let our peoples trade and travel in peace and friendship?

    Posted by Bobbie, 07/16/2010 1:07pm (4 years ago)

  • The american farmers & politicians are not very astute! Cuba has frozen the bank accounts of all foreign suppliers in Jan/2009 & they are still frozen as of today! Also a well known fact - cuba doesn't pay their bills & they owe every govt in the world money except the USA & Haiti. And now the american farmers who have been selling to cuba & getting paid up front ,want their govt to lift the restrictions for payment ,so they can give cuba credit !!!! How stupid are they ????They get paid up front now,but want to increase sales by giving credit to a bankrupt country!!! They should go back to school & re-learn Business 101 & buy lots of "Preparation H" as they will be needing it when the cubans get thru with them

    Posted by Mars Simms, 07/15/2010 11:44pm (4 years ago)

  • Posted by , 07/15/2010 4:07pm (4 years ago)

  • As soon as the travel embargo lifts, the CPUSA should start organizing various reasonably-priced interest-group trips there...healthcare, educational, religious, ecology, historical, US-Cuba Solidarity, etc.

    Posted by Eric G, 07/15/2010 3:10pm (4 years ago)

  • Armando, since Obama came to power Cuban President Raul Castro has been sending out signal after signal that Cuba would be willing to talk to the United States on the issue of prisoners, with the Cubans focusing on the Miami Five. The United States keeps seeing they want to see a "gesture". Well, here's the gesture. Now lets see how the U.S. responds.

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 07/14/2010 8:11pm (4 years ago)

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