Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Bipartisan Consortium to Advance Normalization

Former UGA President Michael Adams named to Cuba normalization group

Education reporter

Former University of Georgia President Michael Adams was named to a high-profile group that will advocate for normalized relations between Cuba and the United States.

The Cuba Consortium and its advisory board were announced in July as the Obama administration took steps to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease travel and trade restrictions.

“The consortium will “provide a bipartisan platform for examining and measuring progress in legal, economic and human rights spheres in Cuba which impact normalization prospects, will analyze politics and policy around the U.S. approach to normalization” and will “serve as a trusted advisor and convener for many companies, universities, entrepreneurs and private citizens interested in engaging with Cuba,” according to a letter from Cuba Consortium co-chairs Nancy Kassebaum Baker and Tom Daschle to Adams and other members of the consortium advisory board.

Besides those two former U.S. senators — Kassebaum a Republican and Daschle a Democrat — the advisory board’s 12 members include former Sens. Olympia Snowe, Bob Kerrey, Byron Dorgan and Bill Frist, University of North Carolina president Thomas Ross and two CEOs of large international non-government organizations, Helene Gayle and Rodney Ferguson.

The consortium was begun by the nonpartisan Howard Baker Forum, established by the late U.S. Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee. Baker, a Republican, was well known for forging compromises and keeping relations polite between the two parties in the Senate.

Adams was Baker’s chief of staff from 1975 to 1979 and maintained ties with Baker and his family after Adams left politics for academia.

“I’m proud to be associated with this group,” said Adams. “I’ve been interested in international relations all my life.”

During Adams’ 16 years as UGA president, the number of UGA students studying abroad increased dramatically, and he and his wife Mary contribute to a scholarship fund for UGA students studying abroad.

Although President Obama is removing some barriers to normalized relations, some will require approval from Congress, where many oppose the idea.
However, many U.S. businesses, including Caterpillar, have been advocating easing trade restrictions with Cuba.

Adams said the time is right for normalization.

“I think we’re better off when we trade with people and talk with people,” he said.

“My hope would be to see Cuba become a more open society than it is today,” Adams said.

The Cuba Consortium will have its first meeting this fall and host a public conference in Washington, D.C. in early 2016.

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