Angus King introduces bill to re-open trade with Cuba

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine. BDN file photo by Gabor Degre.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine. BDN file photo by Gabor Degre.

With relations between the United States and Cuba thawing after decades of America enforcing sanctions and a diplomatic freezeout on its Caribbean neighbor, Maine’s independent U.S. senator, Angus King, says it’s time to open trade with Cuba once again.

King, along with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, has introduced a bill that would allow the private sector to trade goods and services with Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years, according to a news release.

“For far too long, the Cuban people and American businesses have suffered at the hands of an antiquated trade embargo,” King said. “Like the Cold War that created it, the embargo should be put in the history books.

In December, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced they would move to normalize relations, including seeking to restore diplomatic ties that were broken off by Washington in 1961.

Since then, the U.S. has announced it will open an embassy in Havana, and the Obama administration in May dropped Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The Cuba Trade Act, as the bill is called, would lift the trade embargo on the private sector, allowing for the free flow of business with the island. It would also allow U.S. financial institutions to extend credit to Cuba, though the bill includes protections to minimize risk to American taxpayers.

The Act would not repeal current rules that prohibit the expenditure of federal money on trade promotion or market development in Cuba, but would allow private funds to be used to promote Cuban trade.

“The Cuba Trade Act would finally end our outdated embargo policy and establish a new economic relationship with Cuba that will support increased trade for American businesses and help the Cuban economy and its people to flourish. It’s past time we take this step forward, and I hope Congress will act to help bring our relationship with Cuba into the 21st century,” King said.

King and Moran are also sponsors of legislation that would loosen travel restrictions to Cuba and remove restrictions on banking transactions associated with American travel to the island nation.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.