[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) joined Congressman Charles B. Rangel (NY-13) and several other House Democrats today in introducing legislation aimed at allowing free trade between the two countries. The Free Trade with Cuba Act reflects President Barack Obama’s announcement in December of normalized relations with Cuba and the subsequent rules easing travel and trade restrictions. Joining Congressman Cohen as original co-sponsors of Congressman Rangel’s legislation are Reps. Karen Bass, William Lacy Clay, John Conyers, Keith Ellison, Chaka Fattah, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Henry C. Johnson Jr., Sheila Jackson Lee, Barbara Lee, Gregory Meeks, Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson, Jared Polis, Bennie G. Thompson, Jose E. Serrano, and Jan Schakowsky.
“I support the President’s efforts to improve our relationship with Cuba and am pleased to join Congressman Rangel in introducing the Free Trade with Cuba Act to lift the embargo. Our outdated policies toward Cuba have failed to help the Cuban people, and the Castros still rule the nation. The reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and lifting our trade embargo are humane and logical steps forward that will enable the United States to more effectively promote change in the country, support the Cuban people while expanding economic opportunities for Memphis and the Mid-South, and end anti-American restrictions on our citizens’ rights to freely travel to Cuba,” said Congressman Steve Cohen.
“President Barack Obama has indicated to the world that now is the time to change the course of our outdated foreign policy towards Cuba,” Rangel said. “Allowing trade with Cuba will not only generate revenue for our economy, but will also enable us to exchange American culture and ideals that can help foster democratic principles in Cuba. Polls repeatedly indicate strong support among Americans–both Republicans and Democrats, nationally and among Cuban-Americans–for closer diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba. I am very pleased to work with my colleagues in the House to fix a policy that has been broken for years. Given President Obama’s momentous and historic announcement, now is the time for Congress to catch up with the rest of America on this issue,” said Congressman Charles B. Rangel.
The Free Trade with Cuba Act would lift the long-standing embargo on trade with Cuba to give American companies their fair share. Cuba sits 90 miles off the U.S. coast and has a GDP of $60 billion. The longer American businesses are locked out of Cuba, the longer they will lose a foothold for trade and investment in this expanding market. U.S. businesses are falling behind foreign competitors who are increasing their participation in the Cuban market.
Polls indicate bipartisan and multigenerational support for reestablishing trade with Cuba. In an annual survey released this June, 68 percent of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County favor diplomatic relations with Cuba and 69 percent favor lifting travel restrictions to Cuba for all Americans. A separate poll shows that this support crosses party lines–52 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats favor more engagement with Cuba. Finally, support for a new policy is especially strong among young adults, with only 8 percent of Cuban-Americans ages 18 to 29 supporting the embargo.
“I am proud to join Congressman Rangel as an original co-sponsor of the Free Trade with Cuba Act. Cuba represents a growing market for U.S. products and services, especially agricultural and technology products, that has been closed off for far too long. Current U.S. policy towards Cuba has failed. It is time to normalize relations, open Cuba’s markets to U.S. goods and create good-paying jobs, right here in America,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA).
“We are about to see better days when it comes to global diplomacy with the most significant changes in our Cuban policy in more than fifty years. For nearly a half-century we have squabbled, leered at, and marginalized our Cuban neighbor with the overlay of Cuba’s ties to the old Soviet regime and Communism. The Soviet Union is a relic of the past and capitalism and freedom have washed over the majority of the world. The time has come to resume normal ties and allow the Cuban people to benefit from what American ingenuity offers, and hopefully we can learn from each other. This action by Congressman Rangel once again demonstrates his leadership and his ability to change the political landscape in the best interest of the American people,” said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX).
“I’m very pleased to cosponsor the Free Trade With Cuba Act because ending the embargo is the best way to advance human rights and political freedom. The failed embargo has done nothing to advance freedom or strengthen our national security, but it has caused innocent people to suffer for generations. Lifting it would be in the best interests of the American and Cuban people,” said Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-MO).
“President Obama’s plan to establish and facilitate trade and commerce with Cuba is a major market opportunity for American business. Support for this bill will promote investment and trade opportunities for U.S. businessmen and farmers and demonstrate our commitment to building new partnerships with Cuba,” said Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY).
“It is long past time for our nation to change course on our antiquated and failed policy of isolation toward Cuba,” said Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO). “President Obama’s announcement last month was a historic first step, but fully normalizing relations between our two nations will require action from Congress. I hope the House will act quickly to pass this important bill and resume the flow of commerce and the free exchange of ideas between the United States and Cuba that has been stymied for more than half a century.”
“I have traveled to Cuba on multiple occasions with constituents from my District. Upon each visit, I recognized the real potential for economic gain through trade with Cuba. The Free Trade with Cuba Act helps to not only boost our economy, but helps to normalize relations with Cuba and demonstrates America’s commitment to diplomacy. I applaud these efforts and am pleased to be an original co-sponsor,” said Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS).
“Promoting peace, democracy, and human rights requires engagement—not isolation. The United States isolated Cuba for 53 years in a failed attempt to promote democracy and freedom. Restarting diplomatic relations and establishing a new embassy was a great first step. Now Congress needs to follow the President’s lead and pass legislation that opens the pathway to economic engagement,” said Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN).
“We have a ready-made market in Cuba, just 90 miles off our coast, yet the current embargo gives this market away to other countries, putting American producers at a disadvantage. This legislation will significantly open the Cuban market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers, who have struggled to get their products to Cuba due to the cash in advance requirement and prohibition of direct transactions. I have long advocated for legislation to expand U.S. trade with Cuba and the Free Trade with Cuba Act does just that,” said Congressman Collin C. Peterson (D-MN).
“I commend Congressman Rangel for again introducing the Free Trade with Cuba Act. I recently traveled to Cuba where I saw firsthand the success of a therapeutic drug that they are using to prevent foot amputations in patients with diabetes. This is just one example of how lifting the embargo against Cuba will provide a direct benefit to Americans,” said Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA)
“For more than half a century, our policy of isolation toward Cuba failed to promote democracy or prosperity for the Cuban people. While President Obama’s announcement last month was a historic step in the right direction, Congress should pass the Free Trade with Cuba Act to fully remove the counterproductive embargo against Cuba. Increasing trade with Cuba will both improve quality of life for Cubans and provide a boost for American agriculture and manufacturing, creating jobs here at home. I commend Congressman Rangel for his steady leadership on this critical issue,” said Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13).
“These bills to promote long overdue travel and trade between the United States and Cuba will help create good jobs here at home, improve the quality of life for the people of both nations and demonstrate the success and prosperity that democracy brings to all people. This is good foreign policy, sound economic policy and old-fashioned common sense rolled into one,” said Congressman Rick Nolan (D-MN)
“The Free Trade with Cuba Act is a critically important effort to end the failed half-century embargo on Cuba. It is time for the United States to reshape our relations with Cuba to reflect current realities. Opening trade of goods and information will be a galvanizing force that will ultimately help bring democracy to the Cuban people,” said Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).
Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA): “After more than 50 years of failed policy, I support President Obama’s initiative to engage our neighbor – Cuba. Trade between the U.S. and Cuba will create economic opportunity for both countries and through the free exchange of goods we will also promote openness that will help further our relationship. I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of Rep. Rangel’s Free Trade with Cuba Act, and I look forward to the development and blossoming of this new relationship.”
“As a longtime supporter of lifting the failed Cuban embargo, I am proud to co-sponsor once again the Free Trade with Cuba Act. President Obama’s announcement last month took important steps in the right direction, towards greater engagement between the two nations. This legislation will help lift once and for the restrictions that prevent American companies from doing business with Cuba, which will generate economic opportunity for both Americans and Cubans,” said Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY).