Sens. Moran and King Introduce Bill to Restore Trade with Cuba

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) on Thursday introduced legislation to restore trade with Cuba. The Cuba Trade Act of 2015 (S. 1543) would grant the private sector the freedom to export U.S. goods and services to Cuba while protecting U.S. taxpayers from any risk or exposure associated with such trade.

“I am proud to have my colleague Senator King join me in introducing the Cuba Trade Act of 2015,” Sen. Moran said. “Cuba is only 90 miles from our border, making it a natural market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers. By lifting the embargo and opening up the market for U.S. agricultural commodities, we will not only boost the U.S. economy but also help bring about reforms in the repressive Cuban government. I am hopeful that increasing the standard of living among Cuban citizens will enable them to make greater demands on their own government to increase individual and political rights.”

“For far too long, the Cuban people and American businesses have suffered at the hands of an antiquated trade embargo,” Sen. King said. “Like the Cold War that created it, the embargo should be put in the history books. The Cuba Trade Act would finally end our outdated embargo policy and establish a new economic relationship with Cuba that will support increased trade for American businesses and help the Cuban economy and its people to flourish. It’s past time we take this step forward, and I hope Congress will act to help bring our relationship with Cuba into the 21st century.”

S. 1543 would:

Lift the Cuba trade embargo to allow farmers, ranchers, small businesses and other private sector industries to freely conduct business with the island nation;
Grant U.S. financial institutions the freedom to extend credit to Cuba, while ensuring there is no financial risk to federal taxpayers; and
Maintain the current restrictions on federal taxpayer funds being used for trade promotion or market development in Cuba, while explicitly allowing private funds – including producer-funded checkoff programs – to be used for such purposes.
Nearly 150 U.S. organizations have voiced their strong support for commonsense reforms related to U.S.-Cuba relations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Foreign Trade Council, the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Farmers Union.

“The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba strongly supports the Cuba Trade Act because ending the embargo will foster new opportunities for agriculture in both our nations,” said U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba Spokeswoman Dianne Byrum. “We appreciate the commitment shown by Sen. Moran and Sen. King to develop this common-sense, bipartisan measure. We hope to see quick passage of this bill in the U.S. Senate, and an end to the embargo with Cuba as soon as possible.”

Sen. Moran has long fought for commonsense changes to U.S. trade policy with Cuba, which must import the vast majority of its food, to open up more markets for American farmers and ranchers. In July 2000, an amendment (H.Amdt.1031 to H.R.4871) offered by then Rep. Moran prohibiting funds from being used to enforce sanctions for food, medicine and agriculture products in a sale to Cuba passed the House of Representatives (301-116). The adoption of this amendment opened another needed market to farmers throughout the country. Unfortunately, changes in regulations by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2005 once again severely restricted this market for U.S. agriculture producers. Since that time, Sen. Moran has continued to fight to enable farmers and ranchers to compete on a level playing field with foreign competitors when trading with Cuba.

Sens. Moran and King are also sponsors of The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015 (S. 299), which would loosen travel restrictions to Cuba and remove restrictions on banking transactions incidental to travel that have long been unfairly imposed on American citizens.

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