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American Shipper

Senate committee approves measures to ease Cuba trade

The amendments to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill were added at the behest of senators from farm states with constituents who have an interest in expanding agricultural exports to the island nation.

   The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved three amendments designed to further open trade with Cuba.
   The amendments, part of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that covers the Treasury and Judiciary departments, among others, were added at the behest of senators from farm states with constituents who have an interest in expanding agricultural exports to the island nation.
   President Obama this year has re-opened diplomatic relations with the Communist nation and used executive authority to ease trade restrictions for a dozen limited categories. But only Congress can repeal the decades-old trade embargo with Cuba. Humanitarian shipments, which include agricultural and food products, are currently allowed to Cuba.
   Jerry Moran, R-Kan., introduced an amendment that would lift the travel ban to Cuba for one year.
   Another amendment, authored by Jon Tester, D-Mont., would repeal the requirement that commercial ships having docked in Cuba must wait 180 days before unloading in the United States.
   The committee also approved an amendment from John Boozman, R-Ark., that allows private financing of agricultural exports to Cuba. Currently, business must be conducted on a cash basis or use third-party credit agencies in Europe.
   The committee also directed the departments of Treasury, Commerce and Agriculture to assess the impact recent policy and regulatory changes to ease trade restrictions with Cuba have had on the U.S. agricultural industry, and the extent to which remaining prohibitions on U.S. private financing or credit sales of U.S. agricultural commodities negatively effect small exporters.
   “Putting the relic of the unilateral U.S. embargo against Cuba behind us is in the strategic interests of both hemispheres,” Richard Sawaya, vice president of USA *Engage, said in a statement, “and today, we are pleased to see the Senate Appropriations Committee taking steps toward that ultimate goal. We will continue to work with members of Congress and the Administration to fully reestablish commercial and diplomatic relations with Cuba.”

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