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Foreign Affairs Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007

Location: Washington, DC

FOREIGN AFFAIRS AUTHORIZATION ACT, FISCAL YEARS 2006 AND 2007--Continued -- (Senate - April 05, 2005)


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I rise today to offer a second degree of time certainty to the most important legislation of the Senator from Montana, S. 328, that was produced in bill form and now we hope can become an amendment to the State Department's authorization bill that deals with agricultural export facilitation. I speak to that most importantly because of the tremendously positive work that has been going on in agricultural exports between this country, our agricultural producers, and the Nation of Cuba.

I am in complete agreement with the President when he said:

Open trade is not just an economic opportunity, it is a moral imperative. When we negotiate for open markets, we are providing new hope for the world's poor. And when we promote open trade, we are promoting political freedom. Societies that open to commerce across their borders will open to democracy within their borders, not always immediately, and not always smoothly, but in good time.

That was a quote in 2001. It is most appropriate today. Senator Baucus, myself, Senator Roberts, Senator Hagel, Senator Lugar, and 25 other Members of this Senate have grown increasingly frustrated with the bureaucratic effort at the Department of Treasury literally to shut down the intent of very important legislation that became law in 2000. The Trade Sanctions Reform Act recognized a need and an opportunity to sell agricultural products to Cuba for cash, that we would not ask the taxpayers of this country to facilitate. In fact, we would be very strict and very narrow in those relationships with the nation of Cuba because of overwhelming interests in a variety of other areas at that time, and it passed the Congress.

That became law. That law began to work. In the course of its workings, Cuba grew from a trading partner that was the 226th largest against all of our trading partners to the 21st largest this past year. We have produced and sold nearly $1 billion worth of agricultural products to Cuba since that law became operative in 2000. It has become one part of a total of valuable tools that the agricultural community of this Nation uses in trade.

Nearly 34 States have sold products to Cuba and that clearly speaks about the broad base of support that this legislation has.

Somehow and for some apparently very biased reason--let me be blunt--Cold War bureaucrats in the Department of Treasury at OFAC decided, no, we are going to change the law by regulation.

We are going to squeeze and push and deny, and as a result we will collapse the ongoing trade with Cuba that is clearly within the law and within the Trade Sanctions Reform Act of 2000.

What we do with this amendment offered to the State Department authorization bill, and my second-degree amendment, is very clear. We simply restate the law, the intent of the law. We want OFAC to understand what Congress's intent was. We define what a cash payment in advance is. We authorize the issuance of a general license for U.S. agricultural producers to travel to Cuba for the purpose of agricultural trade. We authorize direct cash payments to U.S. banks, cash payments. It is very important we understand that. We repeal section 211 as it relates to the 1999 Omnibus Act, and trademarks, and we clarify a variety of other issues.

What is most important, and for our colleagues who support us in this effort and support the agricultural community in our country's ability to sell to Cuba for cash, we say we are for all intents and purposes reinstating the intent of Congress as expressed in the 2000 law. That is what is important here. We do not believe it is the right or responsibility of Treasury to change the rules or the name of the game or the intent of the law. That is why the Senator from Montana and I have come to the floor, for that purpose. The Senator remains on the floor and I know wants to express his concern.

With that, I yield the floor.


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