'For the benefit of both countries, it's time to turn the page,' Donohue says
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue joined House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel and other House leaders today in backing moves to ease restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba while outlining several reasons the Chamber is calling for a complete lifting of the embargo.
"For the benefit of both countries, it's time to turn the page," Donohue said. "The embargo has failed and it's time for a change."
Donohue pointed toward the benefits of engagement with Cuba as a means to ease the island-nation toward a more democratic and free society. He also highlighted the significant economic opportunities it will bring to both the American and Cuban workers and farmers.
"Prosperity and free enterprise go hand-in-hand," he said. "Lifting the embargo will remove Cuba's excuse for economic failure, promote a transition to democracy, and offer significant economic opportunities to American farmers, businesses, and workers."
Prior to the embargo, the U.S. accounted for nearly 70% of Cuba's international trade. In 2000, under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act, the U.S. began to allow the sale of agriculture and medical products to Cuba. Despite heavy regulation, by 2004 U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba rose from less than $1 million to $392 million, 42% of the Cuban market. In 2008 exports to Cuba reached $718 million.
"We're missing major economic opportunities because of the embargo—opportunities that have eagerly been taken up by other countries," Donohue said. "But it is not too late for us to begin taking advantage of these opportunities."
The U.S. Chamber is the world's largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.
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