Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Travel to Cuba to Promote U.S. Economic Development

A bipartisan Congressional delegation is in Cuba this week to continue the progress begun by President Obama to bring U.S.-Cuba relations into the 21st Century and explore new opportunities to promote U.S. economic development with Cuba. The trip will focus on economic opportunities for American companies in the agriculture and health sectors.

U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Michael Bennet (D-CO) Tom Udall (D-NM) and U.S. Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) will be in Cuba February 19th through February 23rd to help promote U.S. economic development. The McGovern-Leahy delegation will discuss progress in, and future opportunities for, U.S.-Cuban cooperation on a wide range of topics, including foreign trade, migration, human rights, and property claims.

Congressman McGovern, who has been a leading voice in Congress on U.S.-Cuba relations, will also be joined by Congressman Seth Moulton, a fellow member of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation. While in Cuba, the two congressmen will also attend meetings with leaders from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and a delegation from Northeastern University that are in Havana, Cuba to explore partnerships in the areas of medical, biotechnology and environmental research and opportunities for business and university exchanges.

“Americans are ready for a 21st century approach to Cuba and two years after President Obama’s historic announcement of the new U.S.-Cuba policy, I am proud help this bipartisan delegation to build on that progress,” Congressman Jim McGovern said. “With this trip, we’ll be working together with our partners in Cuba to create new opportunities for medical research, increase travel and exchange programs, and support efforts in Cuba to advance democratic reforms and promote human rights. My home state of Massachusetts has always been a world-leader in delivering innovative, high-quality health care and I am excited by the prospect of fostering deeper relationships with the Cuban health sector.”

Congressman McGovern has been a leading voice in Congress in the push normalize U.S.-Cuba relations and find ways to connect the two nations’ citizens through expanded travel, commerce, and access to information. In August 2015, Congressman McGovern joined Secretary Kerry in Havana for the re-opening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba and in the 114th Congress, Congressman McGovern launched a bipartisan Cuba Working Group to build on the historic progress already achieved under President Obama’s new policy.

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. Taken together, these bills repeal economic and travel restrictions and would effectively eliminate the U.S. embargo on Cuba:
  • 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 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 bipartisan 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 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. A recent Pew poll showed 73 percent of the American people, including 59 percent 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.