Free Trade With Cuba Act

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The Free Trade With Cuba Act (H.R.624) was introduced on January 22, 2007 by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and 40 other co-sponsors in the House. The act would end the longstanding U.S. trade embargo of Cuba as well as loosen other economic, travel, and communications restrictions. Two days after the act was introduced, Rangel also introduced the Export Freedom to Cuba Act (H.R. 654), which would only loosen trade restrictions.
Article summary (how summaries work)

The Free Trade With Cuba Act would end the trade embargo the U.S. has enforced with Cuba since 1962, and also repeal other economic, travel, and communications restrictions with Cuba.

The bill states in its findings section that the embargo should be repealed because:

  1. With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba is no longer a threat to the United States or the Western Hemisphere.
  2. The continuation of the embargo on trade between the United States and Cuba that was declared in February of 1962 is counterproductive, adding to the hardships of the Cuban people while making the United States the scapegoat for the failures of the communist system.
  3. In the countries of the former Soviet Union and the former Eastern bloc, China, and Vietnam, the United States is using economic, cultural, academic, and scientific engagement to support its policy of promoting democratic and human rights reforms.
  4. The United States can best support democratic change in Cuba by promoting trade and commerce, travel, communications, and cultural, academic, and scientific exchanges.[1]



As of July, 2007, the bill had 52 co-sponsors, all Democrats.


At the time the bill was introduced, the embargo had been in place since 1962. It was originally enacted to undermine the communist, Soviet-supported Fidel Castro regime during the Cold War. Following the end of the Cold War, however, some argued that the embargo was no longer justified on national security grounds, and that its continued enforcement economically harmed both Cuba and the United States.[3] Over time, certain restrictions had been lifted. In 2000, Congress voted to allow the sale of food and medicine to Cuba;[4] trade between the two countries expanded thereafter. The Bush administration consistently tightened restrictions on trade with Cuba[5], and in 2005 additional restrictions were enacted that cut down on trade.[6]

Arguments for ending the embargo

Those seeking to end the embargo, such as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, argued that facilitating greater trade and interaction between the two countries would help Cuba move toward greater openness and democracy. Moreover, it was argued that access to American goods and services would increase the health and well-being of the Cuban people.[7]

In Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-N.Y.) introduction of the bill, he outlined a list of missteps in American policy with Cuba. He said,

  • "I have long opposed U.S. policy towards Fidel Castro and Cuba, specifically the embargo, as I strongly believe that restricting travel and trade is a failed policy that hinders the American People from competing in the Cuban market and works against the promotion of democracy on the island. It also denies citizens of the United States the fundamental right and freedom to travel where they want and denies Cuban Americans to visit their relatives living in Cuba."[8]
  • "Current United States policy toward Cuba is markedly out of touch with current world realities. Almost every nation has normal trade and diplomatic relations with Cuba, especially many of our allies such as Israel, Spain, China and other European nations. Instead of collapsing, the Cuban economy is growing at a rate of 8 percent a year, and the government has new and profitable relationship involving crude oil drilling operations off of the Cuban coast with China in conjunction with India, Norway and Spain."[9]
  • "It is evident that continuing the current course and making threats about what kind of change is and is not acceptable after Fidel, the Bush administration will only slow the pace of liberalization and political reform in Cuba, guaranteeing many more years of hostility between the two countries."[10]
  • "The best approach to dealing with post-Fidel Cuba is by immediately proposing bilateral crisis management and confidence-building measures, ending economic sanctions, and by stepping out of the way of Cuban Americans and other Americans who wish to travel freely to Cuba. Further, lifting the embargo now will prevent American businesses from falling even further behind as foreign competitors in this market. I urge you to consider H.R. 624, a bill to lift the trade embargo on Cuba and for other purposes."[11]

At the end of his speech, Rangel submitted an article from Foreign Affairs by Julia E. Sweig entitled "Fidel's Final Victory," which suggested that those expecting that Cuba's government would change drastically after Fidel Castro's death were misinformed, and that Raul Castro's smooth rise to power during Fidel's illnesses indicated that Cuba's best hope for Democratization would be the end of the embargo.[12]

Arguments for keeping the embargo

Some members of Congress, including many from the state of Florida, where many Cuban refugees reside, argued strongly for keeping the restrictions. For example, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) argued that "to lift sanctions would not only reward Castro's injustices against the Cuban people but also it would further strengthen this dying dictatorship and prevent Cuba from much needed democratic change."[13]

Diaz-Balart further argued, "Some people do not understand the embargo of Cuba. Its purpose is to keep American hard currency out of the hands of a Communist thug by restricting most trade and travel. Since the military controls all tourism-related business ventures in Cuba, lifting the U.S. travel embargo would put at least $5 billion to $6 billion directly into Castro's hands every year. That influx of cash would allow Castro to return to his practice of exporting his troops to wage terror against the U.S., as he did in Grenada."[14]

Articles and resources

See also


  1. "OpenCongress page on H.R.624," OpenCongress.
  2. "THOMAS page on H.R.624 Cosponsors," THOMAS.
  3. Daniel Griswold "Four Decades of Failure: The U.S. Embargo against Cuba," The Cato Institute, October 12, 2005
  4. Chris Black, "Senate votes to lift Cuba trade sanctions," CNN, October 18, 2000.
  5. President George Bush, "President Bush Discusses Cuba Policy in Rose Garden Speech," October 10, 2003.
  6. Portia Siegelbaum, "U.S. Trade With Cuba? You Bet!" CBS News March 11, 2005.
  7. "Carter urges democracy in Cuba, calls for trade," CNN, May 15, 2002.
  8. "THOMAS page on H.R. 624 introduction," THOMAS.
  9. "THOMAS page on H.R. 624 introduction," THOMAS.
  10. "THOMAS page on H.R. 624 introduction," THOMAS.
  11. "THOMAS page on H.R. 624 introduction," THOMAS.
  12. "THOMAS page on H.R. 624 introduction," THOMAS.
  13. Mario Diaz-Balarat "Keep the Cuba Embargo? YES!" New York Daily News. July 11, 2004.
  14. Mario Diaz-Balarat "Keep the Cuba Embargo? YES!" New York Daily News. July 11, 2004.

External resources

External articles