US lawmakers seek to expand Cuba trade, travel

February 24th, 2010 - 12:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, Feb 24 (IANS/EFE) Democrats and Republicans in the US House of Representatives have presented a bill seeking to broaden travel and agricultural exports to communist Cuba.
The bill was presented Tuesday by the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson, and has 30 co-sponsors, including Republicans Jerry Moran of Kansas, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri.

“Helping feed Cuba is good for the US economy and for the Cuban people. This bill increases the ability of our farmers to sell their products to Cuba just like they do with our other trading partners,” Peterson said in a statement.

The Agriculture Committee plans to hold hearings on the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act in the coming weeks.

Peterson complained about the “bureaucratic red tape and arbitrary prohibitions on the ability of US citizens to travel to Cuba”.

The bill seeks to eliminate the current need to resort to banks in third countries to make agricultural sales to Cuba and would end the requirement for Havana to pay for purchases before the ship carrying them leaves a US port.

In addition, the bill allows all US residents to travel to Cuba.

To date, the administration of US President Barack Obama, which has come out in favour of a closer relationship with Havana provided certain conditions are met, has lifted only restrictions on Cuban-Americans’s travel and remittances to the island.

Past efforts to ease the trade and travel restrictions have failed in Congress due to opposition from lawmakers who support the 47-year-old embargo.

–IANS/EFE

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