Friday, August 04, 2017

Congressional Record: Aug 2, 2017: U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) US-Cuba Trade Act of 2017


  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, today I wish to propose a new day in U.S.
relations with the country of Cuba. With his recent imposition of new
restrictions, the President presented one vision of that relationship--
one that looks backwards and reverts to a failed policy of isolation
that has done nothing to improve the lives of the Cuban people and has
harmed the American economy. I would like to present an alternative
vision--one that looks to the future and at fostering the exchange of
ideas and commerce between the two countries.

  It is often noted that Cuba is less than 100 miles away, but decades
behind the United States, in no small part because of the U.S. embargo.
Decades of the same, tired, failing economic policies left the Cuban
Government in place and only hurt the Cuban people and American farmers
and manufacturers.

  As Cuban-American relations thawed under Presidents Bush and Obama,
the Cuban Government decided to try something different. Private
entrepreneurs are operating an increasing number of restaurants, taxis,
and other tourist-related businesses. Cubans are opening up their homes
for visitors to stay in and selling products directly to visiting
Americans. In addition, the government's grip on information and
communication is necessarily weakening as technology and the Internet
inevitably permeate the country.

  The U.S. has come a long way since the 1990s and hardly resembles the
world of the 1960s. Our policies toward Cuba should reflect that
change. The U.S.-Cuba Trade Act of 2017 would completely remove the
architecture of sanctions against Cuba and establish normal trade
relations with that country.

  I want to be clear that this is not a free pass for the Cuban
Government. I continue to have grave concerns about its suppression of
pro-democracy movements, but I reject the view that continuing to try
and ostracize Cuba will bring positive change. The past five decades
provide empirical evidence that it will not. I also reject the cynical
argument that the U.S. must choose between engagement with Cuba and
support for basic human rights and dignity. Indeed, if the past half
century has shown us anything, it is that smart, principled engagement
is the way to bring about greater economic and political freedom for
the Cuban people.

  Just as important as what the embargo means for the Cuban people is
what it means for U.S. farmers and businesses. Even with the changes
made by the Obama administration, it remains almost impossible to do
business in Cuba. Cuba is a natural customer of the United States, but
restrictions on credit and travel, among others, have severely hampered
the ability of U.S. exporters to do business in the Cuban market. The
question is: What are we getting by surrendering a market that should
be ours to the EU, China, Brazil, and others? I am afraid that the
answer is nothing.

  That is why I introduced the U.S.-Cuba Trade Act of 2017, to finally
put an end to the ineffective embargo against Cuba.

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