Minnesota, Florida members introduce House bill to lift embargo

In contrast to other bills pending in the House and Senate, H.R. 3238 would lift the embargo altogether. However, it would prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to promote exports.
Castor, conversing with First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel during a visit to Havana
Castor, conversing with First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel during a recent visit to Havana

CUBA STANDARD — Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Mn.) and Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor introduced a bill that would lift the embargo on Cuba.

The Cuba Trade Act of 2015 had five more co-sponsors, as of July 28.

In contrast to other bills pending in the House of Representatives and Senate that take a piecemeal approach, H.R. 3238 would lift the embargo altogether. However, it would prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to be used on promotion or development of the Cuban market.

“The United States Government may not provide any foreign assistance to Cuba or any financial assistance, loans, loan guarantees, extension of credit, or other financing for exports to Cuba,” the bill says.

“Restoring normal trade and diplomacy between the United States and Cuba serves our strategic interests in the hemisphere and can only benefit the Cuban people and support human rights and individual liberty on the island,” said Bill Reinsch, president of the Washington-based National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), about the bill.

Other organizations backing the bill include the Minnesota Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union, Minnesota Farmers Union, Greater Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, National Turkey Federation, CoBank, and the Arkansas Rice Growers Association.

Emmer
Emmer
“This important step forward will advance human rights and lift the fortunes of families and entrepreneurs on both sides of the Florida Straits,” Castor said in a press release. “Lifting the embargo and reestablishing historic trade ties with Cuba will be a boost to our port and local small businesses in Tampa Bay.”

A Senate committee on July 23 approved amendments that would lift the U.S. travel ban and ease some trade barriers, making it more likely for the measures to come to a vote before the full Senate.

The Republican-controlled Appropriations Committee voted 18-12 to back the measure that would take away all restrictions from travel to Cuba. Four Republicans joined 14 Democrats to approve the amendment.

The committee later passed other amendments, by voice vote without objections, to a Financial Services appropriations bill to allow private financing for U.S. agricultural sales and lift restrictions on ships that call at Cuban ports.

Meanwhile, Reps. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced a House bill that would allow U.S. telecommunications and Internet companies to expand their services to Cuba and sell their communications devices in the island. A Senate companion bill has been introduced by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Flake (R-Az.), Richard Durbin (D-Il.), and Michael Enzi (R-Wy.).

The law would codify recent regulatory changes made by President Obama, preventing a possible rollback under the next president, “giving businesses which may invest in Cuba the assurances they need to maintain a long term commitment in Cuba,” a press release by Cramer said.

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