A congressional panel voted on Wednesday to remove a trade and travel ban on Cuba.
The House's Agricultural Committee voted 25 to 20 to expand U.S. agriculture trade and increase jobs, approving historic legislation that would greatly expand trade and travel to Cuba.
The bill, if passed, would allow American commodities to be sold directly to Cuba and allow some direct financial transactions with Cuban banks. It is seen as an important step toward ending the embargo on Cuba.
"This is a great opportunity to expand trade," said Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), committee chairman. "An unprecedented coalition of agriculture, business, religious and social organizations endorsed the bill, and the vote demonstrates that Congress is ready to change our nation’s approach on this issue. We have tried isolating Cuba for more than 50 years and it has not worked," Peterson said.
The Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (HR 4645), must still go through the Foreign Affairs and Financial Services committees before it can be considered by the full House. Then the Senate would have to act.
ASTA, along with more than 140 other groups in the business community, endorsed the vote.
"ASTA has long supported the principle that Americans ought to be allowed to travel across the globe without restriction," said Colin Tooze, ASTA's vice president of government affairs. "To use travel freedom as an instrument of foreign-policy manipulation ultimately does harm to the very citizens it purports to protect."