Crawford Announces Cuba Working Group
Washington, D.C. – Earlier today, Representative Rick Crawford (AR-1) and nine other members of the House of Representatives announced the formation of a bi-partisan Cuba Working Group that will seek for greater U.S. engagement with Cuba.
In a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announcing the group’s formation, the steering committee members said:
“Increasingly, the American people are indicating their desire for a new, more pragmatic approach to Cuba. More people are traveling from the U.S. to Cuba, more businesses are looking for opportunity on the island, and more sectors are eager for trade. The bi-partisan Cuba Working Group will promote a U.S.-Cuba policy that reflects the interests of the American people in engagement with Cuba.”
The letter concludes, “Our goal is to raise the level of understanding inside of Congress for the need to build a new policy framework for U.S.-Cuban relations.”
After the announcement, Representative Crawford said:
“The best approach to change between Cuba and U.S. relations is to make cautious and incremental changes to current Cuba policies in ways that benefit the United States and introduce the Cuban people to American products. Not only is it estimated that Cuba imports around 80 percent of its food supply, but the US also enjoys an inherent advantage due to our close geographic proximity and state of the art production and food distribution infrastructure. Agriculture trading partnerships with Cuba will help build a foundation of goodwill and cooperation that will open the door to long-sought reforms in the same the way that American influence has brought reform to other communist states.”
The group seeks to advance policy proposals to promote the rapidly changing status in the US-Cuba relationship. Joining Crawford are: Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Tom Emmer (R-MN), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Rosa Delauro (D-CT).
Over the past year, both the United States and Cuban governments have made significant progress towards normalizing relations, including opening embassies in each country and deepening cooperation in the realms of civil aviation, law enforcement cooperation, direct mail and environmental conservancy.
Members of the Cuba Working Group are supporters of one or more key pieces of legislation introduced in 2015, with Republicans as the lead sponsors.
The Cuba Trade Act of 2015 would allow U.S. businesses in the private sector to trade with Cuba without restrictions;
The Cuba Digital and Telecommunications Advancement Act (Cuba DATA Act) would allow U.S. telecommunications and internet companies to provide services to the island;
The Cuba Agriculture Exports Act (Crawford Legislation) would allow for U.S. investment in privately owned Cuban agriculture businesses;
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015 would allow all U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.
Senate committees have passed significant legislation to lift the travel ban on Cuba and widen trade with bi-partisan support. The House of Representatives has been more reticent to move U.S. policy forward, making this Cuba working group even more important.
Increasing trade, travel and investment in Cuba will not only open new markets and create jobs in both countries, but also promote human rights and better hemispheric relations. Public opinion polls over the past year have shown an increasing support to end the Cuban trade embargo and change course on U.S.-Cuba relations. The most recent Pew poll showed 73% of the American people, including 59% of Republicans favor ending the trade embargo. The bi-partisan Congressional Working Group will now take leadership to match the growing public support for a new U.S. policy towards Cuba.