NFTC, USA*Engage and 15 Other Organizations Urge President to Lift Cuba Academic Travel Restrictions"

Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Washington, DC – The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) and USA*Engage today joined academic, cultural exchange and trade groups in sending a letter to President Obama, urging the Administration to lift restrictions on academic travel to Cuba. The letter sent by NAFSA: Association of International Educators and 16 other organizations recommended that academic travel to Cuba be permitted under general license and similarly, that visas be granted to Cubans coming to the United States for academic and cultural exchange.

“We are approaching the start of another academic year in which American students will find their opportunities to study abroad in Cuba to be severely curtailed because of regulations issued by the Bush administration…. we write in support of the very welcome actions that you have taken to begin to chart a new course in U.S. relations with Cuba, and to urge you, as you continue to develop new policies toward the island nation, to restore academic travel between our countries,” wrote the organizations.

“Exchange programs are often highlighted as a critical component of U.S. engagement in the world and have historically been a successful tool in building relations between nations,” they continued. “Cuba currently remains the only country in the world where the United States government restricts study by American students, as well as academic travel by bona fide teachers and researchers.”

In addition to the NFTC, USA*Engage and NAFSA, the letter was signed by organizations ranging from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and Community Colleges for International Development, to Orbitz Worldwide, the Latin America Working Group and the Washington Office on Latin America.

“A few months ago, the Administration took an important step toward improving relations with Cuba by allowing Cuban Americans to travel and send remittances to Cuba. There are, however, many steps left to take toward significant U.S. Cuba policy reform, and allowing academic travel is chief among them,” said NFTC President and USA*Engage Co-Chair Bill Reinsch.

“American students who study abroad play a key role in sharing U.S. values and perspectives with the rest of the world. Affording U.S. students the opportunity to engage in cultural exchange with Cuba will complement our diplomatic overtures and help promote dialogue, understanding and respect between the two nations,” said NFTC Vice President for Global Trade Issues Jake Colvin.