Statement of William A. Reinsch,
President of the National Foreign Trade Council
Co-Chairman of USA*Engage
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I am William Reinsch,
president of the National Foreign Trade Council, an association
of more than 300 U.S. companies engaged in international trade and
investment that support an open, rules-based trading system. I am
also appearing today as co-chairman of USA*Engage, a broad-based
coalition of over 670 American companies and trade and agricultural
organizations that support sanctions reform. My comments today will
address U.S. policy toward Cuba and the positive role that the private
sector can play in promoting a peaceful political and economic transition
Our basic position is simple. We believe the forty-year old U.S.
economic embargo of Cuba is one of the most dramatic failures of
modern U.S. foreign policy: the regime it intended to undermine
is as solidly in power as ever; its leader rules with unchallenged
arbitrary brutality; and its people remain economically deprived
and politically dispossessed
Instead, the United States is far more likely to achieve its objectives
in Cuba through a policy of engagement with Cuban society than continuing
to isolate Cuba. People to people programs, educational and cultural
exchanges, and commercial engagement all hold out the promise of
influencing the future course of events in Cuba.
In contrast, the main achievement of our embargo has been to provide
Fidel Castro with a blanket excuse for his government's failures.
Having chosen not to engage Cuba, the U.S. has abdicated the possibility
of influencing its development. This has resulted in a perverse
dynamic that perpetuates and deepens the stalemate: each time there
is a prospect of improved relations, the Cuban government takes
an action which they know will prevent any change in U.S. policy,
and each time we have reacted exactly as Castro wants by tightening
the embargo or stopping movement toward engagement.
This is a sterile vicious cycle that must be broken. We cannot
assume that time is on our side in Cuba or that continuing to pursue
our failed policy is without risks. The real issue the U.S. should
address is how to prepare for a post-Castro transition. We have
to accept the fact that there are radically different courses that
post-Castro Cuba can take, not all of them to our liking: civil
war, domination by drug lords, a military junta, or rule by another
figure from this regime who might compensate for a charisma deficit
with even more repression. Increased immigration to the U.S. could
be the result of any of these outcomes. Second, because of its symbolic
importance to the U.S., how we deal with Cuba as it approaches this
transition will affect our standing in the region and beyond. The
U.S. should be seen to be working constructively toward a peaceful
transition to free market democracy in Cuba. By moving now to engage
Cuba, the United States will be able to deploy its most powerful
arsenal before we are overtaken by events. That arsenal is our "soft
power," which goes beyond American affluence to include American
values, institutions and traditions such as the rule of law, tolerance
and freedom of expression and association. These factors have played
a significant role in transitions in places as diverse as South
Korea, Eastern Europe and South Africa.
Now, having failed to influence events in Cuba through a policy
of isolation, it is time to call Castro's bluff and start removing
the crutches he uses to stay in power. Increasing contact between
Americans and Cubans is one way to begin.
To that end, we support enactment of S.950, which would repeal
the prohibition on American citizens' freedom to travel to Cuba.
Ending the travel ban does not reward Castro; it punishes him by
building pressure that will lead to a free people and democratic
government in Cuba. These travel restrictions are perhaps the most
counterproductive of all the U.S. sanctions on Cuba. They hurt families
on both sides of the Florida Straits and restrict the freedom of
American citizens who are accustomed to traveling throughout the
world without constraint.
Recently, the Office of Foreign Assets Control amended its travel
regulations to eliminate people-to-people and educational exchanges
with Cuba, the most potent weapon in our arsenal of "soft power."
These new regulations would not only eliminate important cultural
exchanges between the American and Cuban people, but would eliminate
the entire category of licensed travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba
to participate in educational programs. As a result programs conducted
by some of our country's most prestigious institutions, such as
the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the American
Museum of Natural History, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and
the Museum of the City of New York will be eliminated. In addition,
these new regulations would deny licenses to companies that specialize
in organizing foreign educational travel designed to export American
values. These include the Ambassador Group, founded in the Eisenhower
Administration to promote people-to-people exchanges, and those
that promote music, architectural preservation and rural development.
In May 2002, President Bush announced the "Initiative for
a New Cuba" to encourage freedom in Cuba. People-to-people
contacts are a key component of the President's initiative. These
new travel restrictions are a clear step backward. Congress has
taken notice and is now moving to ease the travel restrictions.
Legislation has passed the House of Representatives by increasing
margins in each of the past three years. Ending the travel ban would
expose the Cuban government's many failures. This may account for
recent poll results show that a majority of Cuban-Americans support
We also endorse efforts to further liberalize food and medicine
exports to Cuba. Food sales have long been recognized as positive
way of engaging other societies. Since Congress passed the Trade
Sanctions Reform Act in 2000, American farmers have sold increasing
amounts of agricultural products to Cuba, benefiting both countries.
Last year Cuba bought $138.4 million in U.S. agricultural products,
including wheat, corn, rice, soybeans and soy products, dairy and
poultry products. Cuba has recently bought live cattle on an experimental
basis to see how they will adapt to life in Cuba. U.S. agricultural
exports to Cuba in the first six months of this year are already
over $100 million and are up 40% over the same period in 2002, clearly
an upward trajectory even though they are cash sales. This is also
relevant to the travel ban, since more Americans traveling to Cuba
will mean more demand for American food products.
A third issue related to Cuba that we hope the Committee will consider
is repeal of section 211 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal
1999. Without going into extensive detail, this section has put
the U.S. out of compliance with its WTO and Inter-American Convention
obligations with respect to the protection of trademarks. As you
know, we have lost a WTO case on this matter. If the section and
its implementing regulations are not repealed, we will be effectively
allowing Castro to steal the 5,000 U.S. trademarks lawfully registered
in Cuba and develop and conceivably export counterfeit products.
From a broader perspective, we will also be compromising the strong
position the U.S. has taken on behalf of intellectual property protection
worldwide, something which I know is of serious concern to this
Over the years we have learned from painful experience that, while
they may make us feel better, unilateral sanctions almost never
achieve their objectives, are usually counterproductive, and are
costly to Americans as well as their foreign targets. There is no
better example of this than the forty year-old sanctions on Cuba.
No other country in the world has such sanctions, but no other country
in the world has the potential to have the positive impact on Cuba
through engagement that the U.S. does.
It is time to realize that isolation does not punish Castro - it
helps him stay in power. As a people we have always been outspoken
in defense of freedom and democracy. We should have the confidence
and determination to take our convictions and the institutions that
embody them directly to the Cuban people. We may be surprised at
USA*ENGAGE is a coalition of over 670 small
and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations
working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of unilateral
U.S. foreign policy sanctions and to promote the benefits of U.S.
engagement abroad. For more information on USA*ENGAGE and the harmful
effects of unilateral trade sanctions, visit the USA*ENGAGE web
site at www.usaengage.org.