WASHINGTON – United States Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner requesting that changes in American telecommunications policy toward Cuba include access to new exports and opportunities for U.S. small businesses. In April, President Barack Obama announced of a series of changes to limits on travel and gifts from the U.S. to Cuba, as well as the authorization of greater telecommunications links between the two countries.

The letter was also signed by Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

“As the Administration negotiates with the Cuban government and comes up with new regulations, we would respectfully request your consideration to make U.S. small business interests a priority in these discussions,” the Senators wrote. “Small businesses are the engine of the American economy and, now more than ever, deserve a level playing field for new opportunities in Cuba.”

The Senators noted that, in the past, when the U.S. eased restrictions on the sale of medicine and agricultural products to Cuba, $438 million in food and agricultural products were shipped to Cuba from the U.S. in 2007 alone. “The recently announced changes present additional business opportunities for U.S. companies and another avenue to improve the quality of life for the Cuban people,” the Senators wrote.

Specifically, the Senators asked about five specific Administration policies relating to small business participation in telecommunications activities in Cuba:

• Whether U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Export-Import Bank loans would be eligible to be used for authorized small business activities with Cuba
• The specific roles that Federal agencies such as the Department of Commerce, Export-Import Bank, and SBA could play in promoting U.S. small business exports/activities in Cuba
• Whether the Administration, as provided by the Regulatory Flexibility Act when a trade is likely to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small companies in an industry sector, will work with the SBA Office of Advocacy to seek streamlined rules and licensing requirements for U.S. small business activities to Cuba
• Whether the Administration plans to issue an online accessible step-by-step small business guide on doing business with Cuba under the new guidelines; such a document could outline banking procedures, business travel, claims, regulatory licensing, and other relevant issues
• Whether the Administration plans to encourage the Cuban government to support joint ventures between Cuban and U.S. small businesses on these projects

Click here to read the full text of the letter.