Eleven Members of the House of Representatives wrote President Barack Obama this week expressing support for changes his Administration is considering to Cuba travel restrictions and urging him to also modify onerous Treasury Department regulations that suppress U.S. agricultural trade with the island nation.
The letter described “rumored” changes to travel restrictions, which were imposed in 2005, as “a positive step that would help increase person-to-person contact between U.S. citizens and everyday Cubans”.
However, the Members told Obama, reconsideration of existing Treasury Department restrictions on how Cubans can pay for U.S. goods should also be under consideration during any rethinking of Cuba policy.
The Members pointed out that the changes, which modified the definition of “payment of cash in advance” under U.S. law, impose payment terms inconsistent with trade anywhere else in the world and precipitated a significant decline in U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba.
“Rather than oppress the Cuban government,” they wrote, “the Treasury restrictions punished U.S. agricultural producers as Cuba shifted its food purchases to other foreign markets like Vietnam, China and Brazil.”
NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates, the industry’s export market development organization, have long supported on both economic and humanitarian grounds any effort to ease trade restrictions with Cuba, which cost the industry tens of millions of dollars of lost sales each year.
NAWG is highly supportive of H.R. 4645, which was introduced earlier in the year by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who spearheaded this week’s letter.
The House Members’ letter is available here.
A similar letter sent from 24 Senators last month to the President is available in full here.