Majority Support for Liberalized Cuba Travel Rules Thwarted Again
Washington DC – The National Foreign Trade Council logged several legislative victories in the close-of-session Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005, approved by Congress on November 20, 2004. Among the provisions supported by NFTC:
Libya Assistance Waiver – Congress granted the President a waiver to Section 507 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (H.R. 4818), which bans the Export-Import Bank from providing assistance to Libya. The ban remains on assistance to Cuba, North Korea, Iran or Syria. The action offers the President flexibility as U.S.-Libya relations continue on a path towards normalization. The United States lifted its nearly 20-year-old embargo on trade and investment in Libya earlier this year in response to that country’s positive steps to dismantle weapons of mass destruction and to make reparations for past terrorist actions. While a positive development, the Congressional action does not immediately allow the Export-Import Bank to conduct business in Libya, but removes a significant legal obstacle to doing so.
NFTC also scored a success in the final Foreign Operations Appropriations bill with the rejection of the Sanders Amendment, which would have placed restrictions on Export-Import Bank financing for certain offshore facilities, without regard to their importance to overall U.S. economic interests. Revisions were also made to a provision that would have required the Export-Import Bank to undertake an economic analysis of a Bank-supported ethanol production plant in Trinidad and Tobago and report on its findings to Congress within 30 days, which would have overridden Ex-Im’s current procedures for determining whether a full-blown economic impact analysis was warranted. Finally, Congress approved adequate funding levels in line with the Administration’s requests for the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the U.S. Trade Development Agency.
“Congress clearly demonstrated its support for U.S. trade and investment through its strong support of critical institutions such as the Ex-Im Bank, OPIC and USTDA. Expanding U.S. business opportunities abroad, including in countries such as Libya, provides the path to economic growth for America. These institutions play a pivotal roll in making that growth possible,” said Bill Reinsch, NFTC President.
In addition to the items included in the omnibus appropriations measure, NFTC also lauded the Senate’s recent approval of the Dutch-U.S. Tax Treaty. This approval adds to the completion of six other important tax agreements in this session of Congress. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under the leadership of Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), as well as the U.S. Treasury Department have shown a significant commitment to the competitiveness of U.S. business in the international marketplace through their dogged pursuit of these important treaties.
While support for international trade and investment was evident in the lame duck, Appropriations Conferees once again stripped language passed by both the House and Senate that would ease onerous travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans seeking to visit family members in Cuba. The original FY05 Treasury-Transportation Appropriations bill denied funding to implement these travel restrictions.
“Congress delivered a lump of coal to Cuban-Americans, many of whom now will not be able to visit elderly relatives in Cuba for Christmas,” concluded Reinsch.
The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) www.nftc.org is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC serves its several hundred member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.
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