Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today joined a group of 13 other senators in calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to maintain and expand economic and political engagement with Cuba. In the letter, the senators emphasize how normalizing relations with Cuba provides clear economic benefits to American businesses and facilitates cooperation on issues of national security.
"Each year the United States exports approximately $300 million in agricultural commodities to Cuba," the senators wrote. "This represents just 16 percent of Cuba's $1.9 billion in agricultural imports. Expanding these opportunities would directly benefit American Farmers. Isolating Cuba again would not just block opportunities for American businesses, it would also allow competitors like China and Brazil to expand their operations."
"A majority of the American people support engagement with Cuba," the senators continued. "American business leaders and farmers deserve a fair shot to compete in a market just 90 miles from our shores. We urge you to build on the economic, political, and national security progress we have made thus far by expanding, not retracting, engagement with Cuba."
In addition to Bennet, the letter also was signed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Tester (D-MT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rob Wyden (D-OR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
Bennet has long supported efforts to open Cuba's markets to American business. In August 2016, Bennet partnered with Engage Cuba to launch a statewide council that works to open trade opportunities for Colorado businesses. In February 2017, Bennet traveled to Cuba to discuss future opportunities for U.S.-Cuban cooperation on a range of topics, including foreign trade. Following his trip, he cosponsored a bipartisan bill to facilitate U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba, making it easier for Colorado farmers to sell products like beef, dairy, and wheat in the Cuban market. Bennet also has cosponsored The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act and The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act, which intended to eliminate most restrictions on travel and business in Cuba.