U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson supports legislation that would allow U.S. companies to sell food and medicine to Cuba, the Georgia Republican told GlobalFax in a telephone interview last week.

The Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement provisions that are likely to be included in the agriculture appropriations bill for 2001 require goods sold to Cuba to be paid for in U.S. dollars and do not allow for any U.S. government subsidizing.

“There is nothing wrong with having food and medicine sold to Cuba as long as it is distributed to the people,” said Mr. Isakson. “A cash system is better than inter-governmental bartering because in those situations often the food does not go to the people it is intended for.”

Whether the legislation will benefit the Georgia agriculture industry depends on how much food the Cuban government can afford to buy, he said, which is unknown.

Mr. Isakson, whose district includes parts of Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Cherokee counties, said that he supports the provisions for the same reason he voted for permanent normal trade relations with China; opening up communist countries to American products will expose them to U.S. culture and lifestyles and hopefully lead them to becoming free nations.

“There are two ways to conduct foreign policy, using trade and commerce or missiles and guns,” he said, and added that if Cuba is found to be a military threat or supporting terrorism, the country can always be embargoed again.

Introduced by Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.), the legislation has the support of House Republicans, although whether President Clinton will approve it is uncertain due to one provision that would restrict presidents from ordering punitive food and medicine sanctions on other countries. The power to allow U.S. tourists to travel to Cuba would also be transferred from the president to Congress.

Call Mr. Isakson’s office at (404) 252-5239 or at (202) 225-4501.