02.12.15

Leahy Joins In Introducing Bipartisan Bill To Lift Cuba Trade Embargo

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Feb. 12, 2015) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday joined a bipartisan coalition of senators in introducing major legislation to lift the Cuba trade embargo.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and cosponsored by Leahy and Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).  Their bill would eliminate the key barriers to Americans doing business in Cuba.  The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act would pave the way for new economic opportunities for American businesses and farmers by boosting U.S. exports and allow Cubans greater access to American goods.  The legislation repeals provisions of previous laws that block Americans from doing business in Cuba, including the original 1961 authorization for establishing the trade embargo; subsequent laws that required enforcement of the embargo; and other restrictive statutes that bar transactions between U.S.-owned or controlled firms and Cuba, and limitations on direct shipping between U.S. and Cuban ports.  The bill does not repeal some portions of the laws, such as those that address property claims against the Cuban government.

Leahy said:  “For decades the U.S. embargo, a relic of the Cold War, has been used by the Cuban government as a phony excuse for its failed policies.  Cuba’s economy is a shambles and its people are suffering.  When we lift the embargo, the Cuban people and the world will know who is to blame.  I strongly support opening relations with Cuba and, in doing that, providing U.S. companies the opportunity to compete with their foreign partners.  It will increase the amount of food on the plates of the Cuban people, it will enable them to buy American construction materials to improve their homes and it will give Cuban entrepreneurs access to quality U.S. goods to start small businesses and reform Cuba’s controlled economy.  I commend Senator Klobuchar for her leadership on this issue.”

The legislation has been endorsed by the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.

The new bill is the second bipartisan bill that would change more than half a century of a failed U.S. policy on Cuba, anchored by the 53-year-old embargo.  They are the first bills proposing to change U.S. policy on Cuba since Dec. 17, when the United States and Cuba announced the start of negotiations toward normalized relations, on the same day that Leahy accompanied Alan Gross back home after he spent five years in a Cuban prison.  The earlier bill, to lift the ban on Americans’ travel to Cuba, was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 29.  The Freedom To Travel To Cuba Act was introduced by Flake and also cosponsored by Leahy, Durbin, Enzi, Klobuchar and Stabenow, as well as by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), John Boozman (R-Ark.),Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).  

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