New U.S.-Cuba Trade Assn. will work to open up trade, travel

by Staff
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WASHINGTON — More than 30 companies, state agencies and organizations from 19 states Tuesday announced the official formation of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association.

Charter members include Archer Daniels Midland Co.; Cargill, Inc.; the National Foreign Trade Council; USA Rice Federation; North Dakota Farm Bureau; Port of Galveston; Louisiana Department of Economic Development; Virginia Department of Agriculture; and U.S. Wheat Associates.

The mission of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association is to protect current trade with Cuba, expand and increase the potential for future business and promote the full normalization of commercial relations between the two countries.

The association was formed in the aftermath of restrictions placed on travel and trade by the Bush administration, including a ruling by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of Treasury that says U.S. companies must receive money in advance from Cuba before shipping products. That ruling has angered U.S. agricultural interests and has prompted the introduction of legislation to overturn it.

"We have formed this association because of the desire of our members not only to keep trade with Cuba running smoothly, but also to move forward to expand trade and travel opportunities with Cuba," said Kirby Jones, U.S.C.T.A. president and long-term advisor to U.S. companies interested in Cuba. "The (O.F.A.C.) action has already disrupted and directly hurt the smooth trade which in three years produced over U.S.$1.2 billion in sales by American firms."

The association already has pledged support for legislation introduced in the House and Senate that would open more trade with Cuba. The new association also voiced support for bills expected to be introduced today to open up travel to Cuba.

The board of directors of the new group is headed by Bill Reinsch, former Under Secretary of Commerce and current president of the National Foreign Trade Council. The new Association has formed a strategic partnership with the NFTC and its USA*Engage Coalition of more than 600 U.S. companies that have opposed the use of unilateral economic sanctions, including the Cuba embargo.

The association's board of advisors, chaired by William D. Rogers, former Assistant Secretary of State and a vice chairman of Kissinger Associates, includes David Rockefeller; Carla Hills, former U.S. Trade representative; Frank Carlucci, former Secretary of Defense; James Schlesinger, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former Secretary of Defense; A.W. Clausen, former chief executive officer of Bank America and president of the World Bank; Silvia Wilhelm, of the Miami-based Cuban American Commission for Family Rights; and 21 other prominent Americans who reflect the broad national support among different sectors for normalized trade with Cuba.

According to its web site (, the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association will establish a national data base of companies interested in trade with Cuba, set up an email alert system to mobilize support for Congressional initiatives, provide members with a monthly newsletter and organize seminars and conferences to educate the U.S. business community about doing business with Cuba.

As one of its first activities, the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association is hosting a meeting today for companies, agricultural associations and others to hear directly from Pedro Alvarez, chairman of Alimport, the Cuban entity which signs all contracts with U.S. firms. Via two-way teleconference, Alvarez will speak to the group from his office in Havana and answer questions.

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