A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday presented a bill to end the Cuban trade embargo and open up the doors to U.S. exports to the communist island.
The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act would overturn the laws that have prevailed for decades prohibiting commerce with Cuba or with firms that do business with Havana.
“It’s time to the turn the page on our Cuba policy,” Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the bill’s main sponsor, said. “Fifty years of the embargo have not secured our interests in Cuba and have disadvantaged American businesses by restricting commerce with a market of 11 million people just 90 miles from our shores.”
“There are many issues in our relationship with Cuba that must be addressed, but this legislation to lift the embargo will begin to open up new opportunities for American companies, boost job creation and exports, and help improve the quality of life for the Cuban people,” she added.
Sponsoring the bill along with Klobuchar are Democrats Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin and Debbie Stabenow, along with Republicans Mike Enzi and Jeff Flake.
The bill, however, does not repeal human rights provisions or provisions relating to property claims against the Cuban government, while lifting the prohibition on travel to the island would be covered by another bill presented several weeks ago specifically to deal with that issue.
That earlier bill would end legal restrictions on travel to the island for U.S. citizens and legal residents, as well as the obstacles to banking transactions connected with such trips.
Although the Barack Obama administration announced easing restrictions on travel to Cuba at the beginning of this year, Congress must vote to do away with the legal framework supporting the Cuban embargo.
When asked about the bill presented in the Senate on Thursday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that Obama had made clear that he supports legislation to lift the embargo, adding that he backs such a bill, in general terms, although she went on to say that her department had not had a chance to study the bill in detail. EFE