March 31st, 2008 by Natalie Messina
Source: Daily Reveille
With Fidel Castro no longer in office, all eyes are on Cuba, with some
speculating the power shift could reopen a lucrative window in Louisiana.
Cuba was the Port of New Orleans' biggest trading partner before Castro
became president in 1959. Though a handful of products still flow
between the countries, trade remains limited because of a U.S. trade
embargo in place since the 1960s.
Louisiana exported $30 billion in goods this past year according to the
World Trade Center of New Orleans. About $173 million of those exports
went to Cuba, ranking the island No. 45 among more than 200 countries
with which Louisiana did business in 2007.
But this hasn't stopped New Orleans from realizing the potential to
renew profitable ties with the island. Some are optimistic that Fidel's
decision to step down could trigger a change in U.S.-Cuban trade policy
and create more jobs in the Louisiana trading industries located along
the Mississippi River.
"I am hopeful for the first time in many years," said George Fowler,
general counsel and vice president of the Cuban American National
Foundation, the largest Cuban exile group in the world.