February 09,2005

Baucus Joins With Craig, Roberts on Cuba Ag Trade Bill

Senators Lead Unprecedented Bipartisan Effort to Ease Restrictions on Food Sales to Cuba

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) U.S. Senator Max Baucus, Ranking Member of the Senate FinanceCommittee, joined with Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Intelligence Committee Chairman PatRoberts (R-Kan.), and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) to introducelegislation today that would end a two-month standoff with the Treasury Department thatthreatened to shut down U.S. agricultural trade with Cuba. On the day of introduction, thelegislation already has amassed 20 cosponsors, 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

“The administration picked the wrong fight by trying to cut off U.S. agricultural sales toCuba,” Baucus said. “Agricultural producers from Montana and all over the country have founda lucrative new market in Cuba. The Agricultural Export Facilitation Act will ensure that theycan keep that market and continue to sell their products to Cuba as they have done withoutincident for several years.”

The legislation is intended to head off the Treasury Department from tightening rulesgoverning payment conditions for food sales to Cuba that opponents argue will close the Cubanmarket to U.S. agricultural products. The bill defines cash payment in advance as receipt ofpayment before transfer of title and release of physical control of goods to the purchaser. Baucushas fiercely criticized any further restrictions with on agricultural trade with Cuba and last monthreiterated his threat to block significant Treasury Department nominations until the issue getsresolved.

“Congress passed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act in 2001specifically to open Cuba’s market to American agricultural products,” asserted Baucus. “Sincethat time, U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba have reached over $700 million, and Cuba has becomeour twenty-second most important agricultural export destination. I’m not going to let TreasuryDepartment bureaucrats shut the door on Cuba trade that we in Congress purposefully opened.”  

The act also includes several other key measures Baucus has championed that wouldfacilitate agricultural trade with Cuba, including:

· A general license for Americans traveling to Cuba to sell, market, or serviceagricultural products authorized by Congress;

· Quarterly reports on visa processing procedures for Cuban agricultural trade officialsand inspectors;

· Direct banking relations for agriculture trade-related transactions; and

· The repeal of Section 211, a measure tucked into the 1999 Omnibus bill thatjeopardizes American trademarks registered in Cuba.

Baucus, a longtime advocate of dismantling the four decades-old embargo on Cuba, has ledbipartisan efforts to lift the travel ban and introduced legislation last year to protect Americancompanies’ trademarks in Cuba. In December of last year, Baucus joined several hundredAmericans at an agricultural trade event in Havana. In 2003, the Senator took a Montana tradedelegation to Cuba and walked away with a $10 million Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)for the Cuban government to purchase Montana products. After completing the first MOU,Baucus signed a second MOU with Cuba for $15 million.