Senate backs move to boost farm trade with Cuba
Sun Dec 13, 5:27 pm ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate approved a provision on Sunday to
facilitate cash sales of U.S. farm goods to Cuba, overturning
restrictions by former President George W. Bush's administration, a
"By allowing cash-based sales of our world-class U.S. goods to Cuba, we
restore congressional intent and make it easier for American producers
to export during a critical time for our economy," Senate Finance
Committee Chairman Max Baucus said.
The move follows efforts by President Barack Obama to improve relations
with Communist-run Cuba. Obama says he wants to "recast" ties and has
announced a slight relaxation of the five-decades old U.S. trade embargo
The farm goods provision was added to legislation to fund dozens of
federal agencies for the rest of the 2010 fiscal year, which ends
September 30, 2010.
The U.S. House of Representatives has already approved the massive
spending bill, which Obama is expected to sign into law on Friday.
U.S. farm groups, eager to increase sales to a market about 90 miles
from the United States, have been at the forefront of efforts to ease
the trade embargo on Cuba.
Congress authorized cash sales of U.S. farm goods to Cuba in 2000 under
the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act. But the Bush
administration issued rules in 2005 requiring Cuba to pay for the goods
through third-country banks before the products left port.
Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, which has a significant farming sector,
said the new provision would allow Cuban buyers to wire payments
directly to the United States while the goods are in transit, as
Congress intended in 2000.
Exports of U.S. crops, meats and farm products totaled $707 million in
2008. The U.S. International Trade Commission has estimated that amount
could grow by hundreds of millions of dollars if all restrictions on
farm trade were removed.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Paul Simao)
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