|ILL TRADE WINDS|
July 11, 1996
In March, President Clinton furthered the United States' anti-Cuba policy by signing the Helms-Burton Act, a law that penalized companies doing business with Cuba. Canada and other U.S. allies say the bill oversteps international law. After a background report by Charles Krause, Art Eggleton, Canada's Trade Minister, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, debate the legitamacy of the Helm-Burton Act.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Now two views from two countries on the Helms-Burton Law. Art Eggleton is Canada's Trade Minister, he joins us from Ottawa. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, was one of the co-sponsors of the new law. Both of you welcome. Mr. Minister, let me begin with you. Tell me why--what is wrong with this law from Canada's point of view?
ART EGGLETON, Trade Minister, Canada: Well, the United States has a quarrel with Cuba, quite obviously, and they should take that matter up with Cuba and leave us out of it. That's what we're saying. They're taking aim at their enemy and they're shooting their friends by dragging us into it and threatening our companies and our people with court action and barring them from entry into the United States. This is contrary to the North American Free Trade Agreement. It's contrary to international law. Let them take their problem up with the Cubans but leave us out of it.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Congresswoman, how do you respond to what the Trade Minister says?
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, (R) Florida: (Capitol Hill) Well, I think that Canada should be left out of it. They are free to trade with Cuba. They're free to trade with any country that they want to. All that the Helms-Burton Bill does is protect confiscated American property. If Canada wants to build a four-star hotel on one of the beautiful beaches of Cuba--beaches, by the way, which Cuban citizens cannot use,hotels which Cuban natives cannot go into--but if Canada wants to do it, they are welcome to do it. Helms-Burton does not infringe on Canada's right to do whatever it wishes with any of its trade partners, but they can't use illegally confiscated American property to do so.
ART EGGLETON: Well, I beg to differ with that. You know, illegally confiscated property, that's self-serving rhetoric, because governments all over the world, the United States and many others, whether they're in democracies or not, do, in fact, expropriate property. What the argument I think is, is that the United States Government and the United States business may have is over the compensation. Now other countries had property expropriated, including Canada, or nationalized industries, and we went after compensation. Most other countries have done that. The United States has opted not to do that for whatever reason and now are dragging us into it by saying that if we happen to be doing a deal with the Cuba Government on that property that they're going to, they're going to penalize us. That's fundamentally wrong. Go after the Cubans for compensation.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Congresswoman, let me ask you--
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: You go into Cuba knowing full well that the property that you're about to take once belonged to an American citizen and was taken illegally by the Castro regime. Castro takes over all property. He's the sole owner of all of the property there. They had had legitimate owners. Castro had shown no willingness to have any kind of system for repaying those individuals whatsoever. So these are only--
ART EGGLETON: That's not true. You see, they have done that. They have repaid individual companies. In fact, there's a lot of companies in the United States that are opposed to Helms-Burton that have lost property in Cuba because they say the proper way to do this, in accordance with international law, is to, in fact, go and negotiate compensation. And if you don't want to negotiate compensation because you don't like talking to Fidel Castro and the Cubans, go to the international court of justice to get compensation for these properties.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, if you say that the American property owner has no grievance with the Canadian government, then you should not fear Helms-Burton at all because that owner is not going to sue you. And the reason that you fear Helms-Burton is because you know that that owner has not been given any money, has not been given any rights whatsoever, so he has no other recourse than--
ART EGGLETON: This property is under the ownership of the Cuban government--even though you may not like that they have taken ownership... Her argument is that they should be compensated for it, and I don't disagree--
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: That's true.
|Two competing interests|
CHARLES KRAUSE: Excuse me. Let me--let me ask another question on the same line though. Tell me, Canada has a well known position on human political rights in other countries. Why aren't you--why--how do you justify the fact that, in fact, you're doing business with Castro?
ART EGGLETON: We, we don't believe in an isolationist policy. We think we can get farther by a policy of engagement, and it's certainly, though, to try and achieve a great degree of human rights and a more representative form of government, we certainly agree with the United States. We don't think Fidel Castro is an angel. We think, in fact, there needs to be improvement, just as there are in many other countries in the world. The United States trades with China, and there certainly are human rights violations there as well, but I don't see them isolating China. Certainly many other regimes, whether they're Communist or non-Communist in the world, certainly had trade relations with the United States in the past. We just happen to think that getting a foot in the door is the better way of getting improvement to human rights.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think that's very hypocritical, with all due respect, because how do you explain Canada's position on the Canadian investment in Nigeria? You're telling all the Canadian investors that they should pull out. You're ready to tell Sherritt and every other company from Canada that has investments there that, gee, that's not right to prop up an illegitimate military regime.
ART EGGLETON: We're dealing entirely--
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: And yet for Cuba--
ART EGGLETON: --in terms of Canada's relationship with Nigeria.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Sure.
ART EGGLETON: We're not dragging other countries into it.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: You just care about the bottom. You just care about the bottom line.
ART EGGLETON: The problem is you're dragging other countries into it, if I may.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Why is Nigeria different? Why do you want to pull out of Nigeria?
ART EGGLETON: Because, if I may, we're only dealing with Canada and Nigeria. We're not dragging you into that. We're not dragging other countries--we're not threatening your companies and your--
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: You're telling all of the allies that they should follow you as well.
ART EGGLETON: But we're not threatening them. We're not taking illegal action--
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: We're not threatening Canada either.
ART EGGLETON: Yes, you are. You're threatening to take our companies--
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: You're taking American property.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Congresswoman, if I may, let me ask you a question. Obviously, Canada is not alone in opposing Helms-Burton. Europe, Mexico, most of the countries of the OAS, have also registered their opposition to it. Why do you think if it is justified, in your view, that so many of this country's most important trade partners are, in fact, against it?
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think that if we count the numbers clearly, you would say that Canada's on the winning side because they and other allies want to keep wheeling and dealing with a dictator. Why? Because even though it's immorally wrong, they feel free to do it because they have no problems with, let's say, worker complaints. See, the Canadian Government doesn't pay the Cuban worker. They pay the illegitimate Cuban regime. Castro then pays the worker in undervalued pesos that are actually almost worthless, so the Canadian Government is wonderfully happy they don't have to deal with pesky workers' rights, they don't have to deal with any environmental regulations, they don't have to deal with any kind of safety inspection in their hotels. They are free to do with business with a dictator, and they're just pleased as punch. And then I think--
ART EGGLETON: What about Batiste that existed before that, now was that a dictator that the United States Government liked? There are many dictators around this world that the United States Government has, in fact, been willing to support. And, indeed, dealing with other Communist countries is not consistent with what you're doing in Cuba. Surely, you have human rights concerns in China, but there again, you are still trading with China. No, that's not what we're talking about at all. We're not saying that Castro and the Cubans are angels at all. We're not saying there isn't a need for improvement. We're not saying it wasn't dead wrong to shoot down those planes. What we're saying is take out your quarrel with the Cubans. Go get compensation for that, that confiscated property from the Cubans. Don't come after Canadians for it.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, what we're saying to Canada--
ART EGGLETON: And the rest of the world is saying that as well.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: But those sanctions worked when we all worked together. It worked in South Africa when all of our allies worked--
ART EGGLETON: Precisely. Now why don't we work together instead of taking unilaterial action.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: --together. It worked in Haiti. You say that sanctions are fine in some instances like South Africa, like Haiti, and others--but you don't want to do it in Haiti [Cuba] because of the bottom line.
ART EGGLETON: You're not taking multilateral action. You're taking unilateral action.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: We want you to join us.
ART EGGLETON: But you don't consult us. You, in fact, put the law into effect and asked us later.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: We've asked you.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Mr. Eggleton, if I may, if I may interrupt for one second, please, let me just ask you, the trade minister--today the State Department has notified a Canadian company, apparently Sherritt International, that its executives will be barred from this country beginning next month because of an investment in Cuba. What will your government's response be if, in fact, Canadians are not allowed into this country?
ART EGGLETON: Well, we believe that that's a violation of international law. We believe more specifically it's a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in access by our business people to the United States. And so we will challenge that under NAFTA. In fact, I think this gets carried to a ridiculous extreme because in the name of national security, what the State Department is announcing is that, that a couple of kids that want to go to Disneyland can't go because it's some how a security risk to the United States. That's absolutely ridiculous. Let's get this law straightened out. It's a bad one.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Would you anticipate retaliation, though, if, in fact, Canadians are not allowed in this country?
ART EGGLETON: We're not going to get down to that, that silly level of banning children from coming into our country. We're not going to get down to that tit-for-tat kind of thing. What we are going to do is as best we can protect our Canadian industry from court action in the United States, with any endeavor to confiscate this property in the United States because they also happen to be trading in Cuba. We will take action here to do our best to try to protect those companies. But, hopefully, after we get out of this election year in the United States, that cooler thoughts will prevail and this law will, in fact, get straightened out so that the Americans take up their concerns with the Cubans and don't drag us into it.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Congresswoman.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I would like to point out that Mickey Kantor, who was our U.S. Trade Representative during all the NAFTA negotiations, has looked at this law and has reiterated time and time again that it does not violate the spirit or the letter of NAFTA, it does not violate the World Trade Organization treaties or any other of the treaties that--
ART EGGLETON: Well, we've looked at it and we say it does.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: That's why we welcome those challenges. We don't fear them, and now that he's Secretary of Commerce, he once again has stated that he will withstand any challenges in any international forum. It does not attack sovereignty of any country, including Canada.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Congresswoman, would you expect the President to sign the waiver within the next few days that would postpone implementation of this law for six months until after the election?
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, we certainly are encouraging him to do so. And I think the other countries like Canada, that's why they're already talking about retaliation legislation. That's sort of an extortion technique that they're using against President Clinton, to have him waive Title 3, which is the right to sue these immoral companies in U.S. courts. But we're optimistic that the President will understand that unless he uses a national security excuse that he really must implement this important aspect of this bill.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Did I understand you to say that you're in favor of his signing the waiver?
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Oh, no, no. We are encouraged that we will keep every provision of Helms-Burton and that he will not waive it but Canada and other allies are already using these extortion techniques, saying that unless the President waives this title, that they will now retaliate through their legislation against the U.S. Government.
ART EGGLETON: That's reckless rhetoric. All--we're not--we're not talking about retaliation. We're trying to protect our Canadian companies from, from property that could be confiscated from them. Look it, our Canadian companies are dealing in good faith. I object to the suggestion that what they're doing is immoral or wrong. They're dealing with a government that is constituted in Cuba. Whether you like it, they're there. In fact, over the 30 years that the American Government has been trying to have an embargo work on Cuba seven Presidents have come and gone. But Fidel Castro is still there. Now--
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: So you help him stay there.
ART EGGLETON: --you now--yes, and we're trying to help to improve the human rights conditions in Cuba.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Oh, sure. How? By giving money to Castro? Exploit the workers?
ART EGGLETON: No. I tell you we are, we are not doing anything of that kind.
ART EGGLETON: What we are talking about here is, in fact, if you want compensation for property from Cuba, go after Cuba, but don't try to to come to our--
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: All of--
ART EGGLETON: --companies and our citizens--
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: All of those Canadian--
ART EGGLETON: --and try that.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: --investments only enrich Fidel Castro. They don't help those Cuban workers at all, and the people coming from Cuba will tell you that they are exploited by the regime thanks to the Canadian Government.
ART EGGLETON: We happen to think that engagement works better, and, and you must in many other countries of the world because you're certainly engaged with China, certainly engaged with all sorts of other countries--
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: And I'm against that as well.
ART EGGLETON: --where you can talk about--oh, well, then you might want to--you might want to--
CHARLES KRAUSE: Minister Eggleton, our time is up. I'd like to thank you for joining us from Ottawa. Congressman [Congresswoman] Ros-Lehtinen, thank you for joining us--
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.
CHARLES KRAUSE: --from the Hill. Thank you both.