February 23, 2010
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing the interests of more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, would like to express its support for H.R. 4645, the "Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act," introduced by Rep. Peterson. The Chamber supports efforts to broaden economic engagement with Cuba in the belief that additional commercial and people-to-people contacts will help advance democracy and the rule of law.
Enabling Americans to travel to the island and expand already legal export operations is an important first step in reforming U.S. policy toward Cuba. For five decades, unilateral sanctions and a ban on travel have allowed the Cuban regime to blame their own economic mismanagement on Washington. Rather than encouraging Cuba to democratize, these measures have arguably helped prop up the Communist regime. At the same time, denying U.S. companies access to the Cuban market has bolstered third-country competitors.
Prior to the embargo, the United States accounted for nearly 70 percent of Cuba's international trade. Cuba was the seventh-largest market for U.S. exporters, particularly U.S. farmers and ranchers. The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) estimated in 2001 that the Cuba embargo costs American exporters up to $1.2 billion annually in lost sales, and this sum has likely grown over the past nine years. Facilitating agricultural exports to Cuba would restore the natural competitive advantage of U.S. agricultural products in Cuba.
Because of the need to reform U.S. policy toward Cuba, the Chamber urges you to pass H.R. 4645 swiftly as an important first step toward a policy more likely to bring change to Cuba and commercial benefits to the United States.
R. Bruce Josten